Statute of limitations defense proper in a plea to the jurisdiction says 4th Court of Appeals

 

DeMagaloni v Bexar County Hospital District, No. 04-12-00691-CV (Tex. App. – San  Antonio, September 11, 2013).

This case will be of primary interest to litigators given the procedural aspects but helpful to general counsel regarding timeframes.  This is an employment discrimination case where the primary issue is whether a statute of limitations defense (historically an affirmative defense not subject to jurisdictional challenge) can be raised in a plea to the jurisdiction or only via summary judgment motion. The San Antonio Court of Appeals held it could be raised in a plea.

DeMagaloni worked for the University Health System and was discharged. She sued University Health System Foundation for discrimination by accident, which does not own the hospital she worked at. She later sued the Bexar County Hospital District d/b/a as University Health System. The District filed a plea to the jurisdiction alleging no waiver of sovereign immunity existed which the trial court granted and she appealed. On appeal she asserts a statute of limitations defense is an affirmative defense which is not appropriate for a jurisdictional challenge.

The Fourth Court of Appeals first cited to TEX.GOV’T CODE ANN. § 311.034 (West 2013) (Code Construction Act) which notes statutory prerequisites are jurisdictional when dealing with a governmental entity. Section 21.256 of the Texas Labor Code is a statute of limitations; however reading both sections together results in a jurisdictional bar to missing the statute of limitations. As a result, a statute of limitations defense may be raised in a plea to the jurisdiction.

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