Employment contracts fall under immunity waiver says Texas Supreme Court

BILLY EDWARD DAMUTH, II v. TRINITY VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, et al., 13-0815(Tex. November 21, 2014)(Per Curiam.)

This is a contractual immunity case involving an employment contract with the head women’s basketball coach of the school in which the Texas Supreme Court holds an employment contract such as this is a contract for services and falls under a waiver of sovereign immunity.

Damuth had an employment contract for the coaching position.  Five months into his year contract he was terminated. He sued the school for breach of contract.  TVCC filed a plea to the jurisdiction which the trial court granted and the court of appeals affirmed.

The Court went in an almost bullet point fashion noting that first, while employment contracts are not expressly mentioned in the waiver of immunity found in Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code §271.151, the term “services” is expressly present. The employment obligations contracted for are services under the meaning in chapter 271. Second, while the waiver provision is part of Title 8 of the Local Government Code entitled ““Acquisition, Sale, or Lease of Property,” the Code Construction Act dictates that headings and titles does not limit or expand the meaning of a statute. Tex. Gov’t Code § 311.024. The term “services” is “… certainly broad enough to include services provided by employees.”  Third, nothing in the waiver provision indicates it should apply differently to civil service employees, which have already been held to fall under the provision in City of Houston v. Williams, 353 S.W.3d 128, 131, 139 (Tex. 2011).  As a result TVCC’s plea should have been denied.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Per Curiam opinion. The docket page with attorney information can be found here.