Case Summaries - Appellate

Archive for the ‘Appellate’ Category
Melinda Abbt v. City of Houston

In early 2022, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Melinda Abbt v. City of Houston reversed a hostile work environment summary judgment order in a Houston firefighter’s case, setting two new precedents in hostile work environment cases. The panel found AZA’s firefighter client did not need to experience harassment in real time for it to be actionable. According to the ruling, the victim still has a claim if she finds out later about what happened behind her back. The appellate panel also ruled that the City of Houston can be liable if a workplace harassment report goes up the chain of command but stops because a supervisor who was a recipient of the notice is also a participant in the harassment. This is the first time the court has ruled on these issues.

AZA Lawyers: Kelsi Stayart White on appeal, Joe Ahmad and Jordan Warshauer in trial court

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City of San Antonio v. Armando D. Riojas and City of San Antonio v. Jimmy Maspero

In one day in 2021 AZA appellate practice member Judge Daryl Moore argued two back-to-back governmental immunity cases for the City of San Antonio before the Texas Supreme Court. In early 2022, the court ruled in favor of San Antonio, reversing the intermediate appellate court and dismissing both cases.

Both cases filed against San Antonio involved the immunity of law enforcement officers under the Texas Tort Claims Act and both were reversed and dismissed. These were the first two cases Judge Moore argued after he left the 333rd District Court bench, where he earned recognition as one of Harris County’s and Texas’ best judges.

In the City of San Antonio v. Armando D. Riojas, the court found that the city and the police officer who turned on his emergency lights to warn drivers of a slowdown had immunity from being sued by a motorcyclist who collided with another vehicle. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht wrote that the officer met the test of being “reasonably prudent” in this situation. 

In the companion case City of San Antonio v. Jimmy Maspero, Justice Debra Lehrmann wrote that the officer pursuing a fleeing drug suspect was not reckless, and her actions did not amount to those that would allow for an exception to emergency situation allowances in the governmental immunity laws.

AZA lawyer: Daryl Moore 

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Bryan C. Wagner et al. v. Apache Corp

AZA prevailed at the Supreme Court of Texas in April 2021 on behalf of client Apache Corp. This victory paved the way for Apache to proceed in its arbitration against Wagner Oil to recover in excess of $15 million under an indemnity provision in Apache’s agreement with Wagner Oil.   

The ruling rejected arguments by Wagner Oil to discard an arbitration provision contained in a 2001 purchase and sale agreement for oil and gas wells, mineral leases and fee interests and property to operate the wells. The justices agreed that based on the plain language in the provision, the two parties are bound to arbitrate their dispute over Wagner Oil’s alleged failure to honor its indemnity obligations when third-party surface landowners brought lawsuits for alleged environmental contamination.   

After the oil and gas sale transaction, Wagner Oil assigned the assets purchased from Apache to parties related to Wagner. When faced with Apache’s indemnity claims stemming from the third-party environmental litigation, Wagner and its related entities claimed that the assignees were not bound by the arbitration clause in the original purchase and sale agreement.  

A trial court initially agreed with Wagner Oil, but on appeal, the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals ruled in Apache’s favor in 2018, holding that the arbitration clause in the purchase and sale agreement applied to the assignees. In Oct. 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas denied Wagner’s request to hear the case, but later reversed and allowed the appeal to proceed.   

AZA lawyers: Jane Langdell Robinson, Tim ShelbyFoster C. Johnson and  Nathan Campbell.  

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