Employment Disputes & Workplace Case Law
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Houston Opinions

Lowe's Home Centers Inc. v. GSW Marketing, Inc. (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Jun. 30, 2009  (op. by
Guzman) (
workplace safety, premises liability-store - falling merchandise, negligent activity, premises defect,
worker compensation subrogation) AFFIRMED: Opinion by Justice Eva Guzman    
Before Justices Brock Yates, Guzman and Sullivan  
14-07-00953-CV Lowe's Home Centers Inc & Natasha Tanner v. GSW Marketing, Inc. f/k/a Salesmaker, Inc.
d/b/a CSA Services Southwest and Snow Mountain Construction, Inc  
Appeal from 333rd District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: JOSEPH J. HALBACH  

Sonic Systems Int., Inc. v. Croix (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 27, 2008)(Seymore)
(insurance law, workers comp claim denial)
AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED & REMANDED IN PART: Opinion by Justice Seymore  
Before Justices Fowler, Frost and Seymore
14-07-00103-CV        Sonic Systems International, Inc. v. Randy Croix, Eddie Croix Insurance Agency, Inc., and
Texas Mutual Insurance Company F/K/A Texas Worker's Compensation Insurance Fund
Appeal from 157th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:  Randy Wilson

Metro v. Harris County (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 26, 2008)(Fowler)
(
workers comp subrogation)
AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED & REMANDED IN PART: Opinion by Justice Fowler  
Before Justices Fowler, Frost and Seymore
14-06-00513-CV        Metropolitan Transport  Authority v. Harris County, Texas
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 1 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: R. Jack Cagle

Texas Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ruttiger (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] July 31, 2008) (opinion on rehearing by
Jennings)
(worker's compensation
insurance bad faith, code violation, DTPA, loss to credit reputation)
MODIFY TC JUDGMENT AND AFFIRM TC JUDGMENT AS MODIFIED:   
01-06-00897-CV        Texas Mutual Insurance Company v. Timothy J. Ruttiger
Appeal from 122nd District Court of Galveston County
Trial Court Judge: Hon. John Ellisor

In re Jindal Saw Limited (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] May 22, 2008)(Alcala)
(
workplace safety, occupational injury, worker's comp, nonsubscriber, arbitration, wrongful death, survival action)
GRANT PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS: Opinion by Justice Alcala   
Before Justices Taft, Keyes and Alcala
01-07-01068-CV In re Jindal Saw Limited, Jindal Enterprises LLC, and Saw Pipes USA
Appeal from
Probate Court No 1 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Russell Austin  
Attorneys:  Levi G McCathern II,  Jeffrey Christopher Wright
| Attorney Kurt B. Arnold,  Marvin B. Peterson, Micajah Daniel Boatright  

Employer Not Liable for Negligence Because Employer's Duty not Established
Jack in the Box, Inc. v. Skiles, No. 05-0911 (Tex. Feb 9, 2007(per curiam)
(workplace safety, injury, nonsubscriber employer, no duty, no liability for negligence)

Can Employers Be Held Liable for Employee's Off-Duty Conduct?  
Loram Maintenance of Way v. Ianni, No. 04-0666 (Tex. Jun 30, 2006) Opinion by Justice Paul Green)
In general, an employer owes no duty to protect the public from the wrongful acts of its off-duty employees that
are committed off the work site unless the employer exercises control over the employees’ off-duty activities that
cause harm. See Otis Eng’g Corp. v. Clark, 668 S.W.2d 307, 309, 311 (Tex. 1983). Here, we are asked to
decide whether an employer owes a duty to protect the public from an employee’s wrongful off-duty conduct,
even though the employer exercised no control over the employee’s off-duty activities, because the employer
knew its employee was drug-impaired and had threatened violence to others. We conclude that the employer
owes no such duty. . . .
Based on the facts surrounding the occurrence in question, we conclude that Loram owed no duty to Ianni with
respect to Tingle’s off-duty conduct. Because Loram owed no duty, we need not reach the remaining issues. We
Reverse the court of appeals’ judgment against Loram and Render a take-nothing judgment in Loram’s favor.

Faulty jury instruction subject to harmless error test on appeal
Bed, Bath and Beyond v. Urista No. 04-0332 (Tex. Dec. 29, 2006)(Green)
[personal injury law, PI, workplace injury, jury instruction, unavoidable accident,
charge error, harmless error]    
BED, BATH & BEYOND, INC. v. RAFAEL URISTA; from Harris County; 1st district (01-02-00150-CV, 132 S.W3.d
517, 02 19 04)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to that court.

In this case we decide whether an unavoidable accident instruction given to the jury caused reversible error and
requires a new trial. We conclude that because the record does not support a finding that the trial court’s
submission of the instruction probably caused the rendition of an improper judgment, Tex. R. App. P. 61.1(a),
any error in including the instruction in the jury charge was harmless. Accordingly, we reverse the court of
appeals’ judgment and remand the case to that court for consideration of the remaining issues.

Is Employer Liable for Torts of Independent Contractor?  
Fifth Club v. Ramirez, No. 04-0550 (Tex. Jun. 30, 2006)(Justice Paul Green)
In this case we revisit the rule that an employer is generally not liable for the acts of an independent contractor
unless the employer exercises sufficient control over the details of the independent contractor’s work. See Lee
Lewis Constr., Inc. v. Harrison, 70 S.W.3d 778, 783 (Tex. 2001). We do so to consider whether a “personal
character exception” makes a business owner’s duties to the public nondelegable when contracting for private
security services to protect its property. Because we do not recognize a personal character exception to the rule
that an owner is not liable for the tortious acts of independent contractors, and because the evidence in this
case is legally insufficient to support the jury’s negligence, malice, and exemplary damages findings against the
owner, we reverse and render judgment in the owner’s favor.
We do find legally sufficient evidence to support the future mental anguish damages award against the
independent contractor and affirm the judgment as to the contractor. . . .
In summary, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment against Fifth Club based on jury findings of vicarious
liability negligence and malice in hiring, and we enter a take-nothing judgment in Fifth Club’s favor. We affirm the
court of appeals’ judgment against West as to future mental anguish damages.

Texas Payday Law Claim Requires Compliance with Statutory Requirements
Hull v. TWC (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 21, 2006)(Anderson)(judicial review of TWC ruling)
[payday law claim,
election of remedies, judicial review of administrative determination by TWC, exhaustion of
remedies, untimely administrative request for rehearing, jurisdiction DWOJ by trial court]
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Justice Anderson
Before Justices Anderson, Edelman and Frost
14-05-00785-CV Donald Wayne Hull v. Texas Workforce Commission
Appeal from Co Civil Ct at Law No 4 of Harris County (
Hon. Roberta Anne Lloyd)
Concurring Opinion by Justice Frost

AT WILL EMPLOYMENT

Sheshunoff Management Services v. Johnson, No. 03-1050 (Tex. Oct. 22, 2006)(Justice Don R. Willet)
(enforceability of
covenant not to compete, noncompete agreements, employment at will, consideration)
Chief Justice
Jefferson delivered a concurring opinion in Sheshunoff v. Johnson
Justice Wainwright delivered a concurring opinion in Sheshunoff v. Johnson  

EMPLOYMENT ARBITRATION CLAUSES

Employer's Arbitration Policy Held Enforceable  - Mandamus Granted to Compel Arbitration

In Re Dillard Department Stores, Inc. No. 04-1132 (Tex. March 2, 2006)(per curiam)(motion to compel arbitration)
From El Paso County; 8th district (08 -04 -00262 -CV, ___ S.W.3d ___, 11-24-04). Pursuant to Texas Rule of
Appellate Procedure 52.8(c), without hearing oral argument, the Court conditionally grants the petition for writ of
mandamus. Per Curiam Opinion

In this original proceeding, relator Dillard Department Stores, Inc. seeks to compel arbitration of a retaliatory discharge claim filed
by its former employee. The trial court denied Dillard’s motion to compel, and the court of appeals rejected Dillard’s petition for
writ of mandamus. 153 S.W.3d 145. Because the trial court clearly abused its discretion in denying the motion to compel
arbitration, we conditionally grant Dillard’s petition for writ of mandamus.

Delia Garcia worked as a sales associate at Dillard’s Sunland Park store in El Paso. In August 2000, Dillard adopted an
arbitration policy covering most employment disputes, including retaliatory discharge. In 2002, Garcia was fired six months after
requesting workers’ compensation benefits for work-related injuries. Garcia filed the underlying suit for retaliatory discharge, and
Dillard moved to compel arbitration. In response, Garcia alleged that she never agreed to the arbitration policy, and even if she
had, the agreement would be unenforceable because Dillard retained the right to modify the policy at any time, rendering its
promise to arbitrate illusory.

The trial court clearly abused its discretion in denying Dillard’’s motion to compel arbitration. Accordingly, without hearing oral
argument, we conditionally grant the writ of mandamus and order the trial court to vacate its order denying Dillard’’s motion to
compel arbitration, and to enter a new order compelling arbitration of Garcia’’s claims. Tex. R. App. P. 52.8(c)
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8/1/09