5th Court of Appeals hold “City Attorney’s Office” is not a jural entity which can be sued

Thompson v Dallas City Attorney’s Office, Cause 05-17-00847-CV (Tex. App. — Dallas, October 18, 2018)

This is an employment dispute, but the main issues center on litigation procedures where the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of the City’s motion for summary judgment. 

Thompson is a former employee of the City.  She filed suit against the “Dallas City Attorney’s Office” for, apparently, some form of discrimination. The opinion does not focus on the underlying claims. Thompson was given an opportunity to replead and properly identify the City as the employer. Thompson failed to correct the misnomer. The court granted the City’s MSJ. Thompson filed a motion for new trial, which was denied. She filed motions to reinstate and to modify the judgment, which were denied. After judgement became final, she appealed. 

The City filed a supplemental answer, verifying a defect in the parties as the City Attorney’s Office is not a jural entity which can be sued on its own. It also asserted the claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The court agreed Thompson’s attorney make an understandable mistake in responding to the motion for summary judgment late. However, Thompson did not have a meritorious argument as the city attorney department is not a jural entity.  While a misnomer, such as naming the department instead of the city, is still effective to toll the statute of limitations, it nonetheless only tolls if the Plaintiff eventually names the proper entity as a party. Here, Thompson never added the City as the proper employer for suit. As a result, the trial court properly denied the motion for new trial and properly granted the MSJ. 

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justices Meyers, Brown and Evans. Opinion by Justice Meyers.