15 days of notice sufficient for court to hear plea to the jurisdiction says Dallas Court of Appeals

Thornton v. City of Plano, Texas, 05-14-01120-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, November 2, 2015).

This is a gender discrimination/retaliation case where the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the order granting the City’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Thorton was a Plano police officer who complained her supervisor made gender-based comments towards her. The PD conducted an administrative inquiry but the inquiry was closed without findings or resolution when the supervisor transferred out of Thornton’s chain of command. A year later Thorton filed a written complaint against her former supervisor for actions which occurred prior to his transfer. The PD conducted another investigation, exonerated the supervisor on two claims and determined the remaining claim could not be sustained or but could not be declared unfounded. Later Thorton received a written reprimand relating to her involvement and implications with an unrelated event between two other officers.  Thorton asserted the reprimand was retaliation for her gender-based claims. After the administrative phase, Thorton filed suit against the City. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction along with a motion for summary judgment.  The court granting the plea.

In her first two issues, Thornton complains of inadequate notice of the basis for the City’s plea to the jurisdiction and the hearing on same.  Thornton’s complaints regarding notice are based on the fact the City filed its plea to the jurisdiction with its motion for summary judgment, asserting a lack of 21 days of notice before the hearing.  However, the notice received specifically noted only the plea to the jurisdiction would be heard, not the MSJ. After reviewing the record, the court held it was not an abuse of discretion to hear the plea with 15 days of notice and the notice provided was sufficient. Thorton also did not preserve her objections to the evidence attached to the plea.  Finally, no pleading amendments could rectify the lack of jurisdictional elements and the City was not required to file special exceptions. Thorton was not entitled to replead. As a result, the plea was properly granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Justice Lang-Miers, Justice Brown and Justice Schenck. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Schenck. The attorney listed for Thorton is William J. Dunleavy.  The attorneys listed for the City are Eunice Kuo and William W. Krueger III.

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