Plaintiff’s amended pleading and response filed after signed order granting plea is issued should have warranted reconsideration says 1st District Court of Appeals

Ronald Williams v. Metropolitan Transit Authority 01-15-00299-CV (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.], March 22, 2016).

This is a Texas Whistleblower Act case where the 1st District Court of Appeals reversed the granting of a plea to the jurisdiction by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (“Metro”).

Williams alleged that he worked for Metro for nine years as a maintenance worker. Williams claimed that another Metro employee, R. Ratcliff, requested him to be complicit in carrying out criminal acts while on the job. No further explanation of what they are was mentioned in the opinion.  Williams claimed that, after he notified Metro about the treatment, Metro employees further retaliated against him by alleging that Williams had assaulted them.  Ultimately Williams was terminated. Williams sued for Whistleblower claims. Metro filed a plea to the jurisdiction which the trial court granted. Williams appealed.

Part of the case turns on whether Williams reported to an appropriate law enforcement authority. Part of the case is procedural as the trial court granted the plea, but before notice of the order Williams filed a Third Amended Petition and amended response asserting he reported claims to two Metro police officers. After analyzing the procedural history, the court held Williams did not need to file a motion for new trial in order to amend his pleadings and supplement his response to the Plea. “Texas Courts have signaled a preference for allowing a plaintiff an opportunity to amend before dismissing a suit in response to a plea to the jurisdiction.” And while Williams could have waived the preference by not acting (as many others have done), Williams did act by filing the amended petition and response the same day as the hearing. Williams should be permitted to return to the trial court, so the order granting the plea is reversed. [Comment: while typically a party would need to file some procedural mechanism such as a motion to reconsider or motion for new trial in order to submit additional evidence or pleadings, the court seems to indicate that is not the preferred case when dealing with a plea to the jurisdiction.]

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Radack, Justice Keyes and Justice Higley. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Higley. The attorney listed for Williams is Todd Webb.  The attorney listed for Metro is Hao Pham Le.