Arnold & Placek Wins Appeal on TEA’s Invalid Administration of 2015-16 STAAR Assessments

Written by A&P News on March 29th, 2018. Posted in Appeals, News

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas today ruled for Arnold & Placek, P.C. and affirmed the denial of the TEA’s plea to the jurisdiction concerning a suit seeking to invalidate the results from the statewide administration of the 2015-16 STAAR assessments.

Arnold & Placek represents four parents from across the state in Lewis, et al. v. Morath, which seeks a declaration that the 2015-16 STAAR assessments for grades 3-8 did not comply with mandatory provisions of the Texas Education Code limiting the time length of the assessments. The parents also seek injunctive relief enjoining the TEA from using the invalid assessments to impose a wide range of consequences to parents across the state, including campus closures and student retention. The TEA sought to dismiss the parents’ suit for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the TEA’s administration of the tests and that the parents lacked standing to bring their claims. The trial court disagreed, denying the TEA’s plea to the jurisdiction. On appeal, the Third Court affirmed the denial, holding that the parents’ lawsuit properly alleges that the TEA acted outside of its legal authority and that the parents have standing to enjoin the TEA from imposing 2015-16 STAAR-related consequences on their children. The Third Court’s ruling allows the parents to proceed on their suit against the TEA, now pending in Travis County District Court.

Arnold & Placek P.C. partner R. Scott Placek, of counsel Kyle M. Jones, and associate Jonathan Chaltain represent the parents in the trial court; Mr. Placek, Mr. Chaltain, partner Matthew Foerster, and senior counsel Scott K. Arnold represented the parents and submitted the briefing on appeal.

Arnold & Placek, P.C. wins summary judgment and affirmance on appeal in wrongful death case applying doctrine of issue preclusion.

Written by A&P News on February 1st, 2018. Posted in Appeals, Employer's Liability

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas today affirmed summary judgment for an employer that was the defendant in a wrongful death suit arising from a tank explosion. The decease employee was not formally married, but two women each claimed to be his common-law spouse and filed claims for workers’ compensation death benefits. The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation held a hearing and determined that no common-law marriage existed. One of the women then filed a wrongful death suit against the employer seeking punitive damages as the surviving spouse. The trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, which the court of appeals affirmed, because the same issue that was dispositive of plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim—that no common-law marriage existed—was also dispositive of plaintiff’s standing to sue for wrongful death as the surviving spouse. The court of appeals also affirmed summary judgment on the “survival claim” that plaintiff brought as the administrator of the estate, because workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for any compensable death, and a survival claim is nothing more than the deceased employee’s claim for personal injury damages.

This is the first case in Texas applying the doctrine of issue preclusion (collateral estoppel) to a final decision by the Division of Workers’ Compensation on the question of whether a common-law marriage existed prior to an employee’s death. The case is In re Estate of Howard, No. 14-16-00676-CV, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 1, 2018).

Arnold & Placek, P.C. partners Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster represented the employer in the trial court and in the court of appeals.

Arnold & Placek Wins Death Benefits Case on Summary Judgment, Appeal

Written by A&P News on November 7th, 2017. Posted in Appeals, Judicial Review, News

After the foreman for a San Angelo electrical contractor was killed in an auto accident on his way to work, his widow sought workers’ compensation death benefits from Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Texas Mutual disputed the claim and prevailed at the Division of Workers’ Compensation. His widow appealed the decision to the District Court of Sutton County where Texas Mutual was represented by Arnold & Placek, P.C. After discovery was completed, Matthew Foerster successfully obtained a summary judgment (and defeated the widow’s cross-motion) determining that the foreman was not in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The widow then appealed again to the San Antonio Court of Appeals. On November 1, 2017, the San Antonio Court of Appeals issued a memorandum opinion affirming the summary judgment in favor of Texas Mutual. Throughout the judicial review and appellate process, Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster.

Arnold & Placek obtains mandamus relief directing district court to dismiss employer’s coverage suit against Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

Written by A&P News on August 15th, 2015. Posted in Appeals

Ninth Court of Appeals, Texas

When an injury occurs during an alleged gap between two workers’ compensation insurance policies, the Division of Workers’ Compensation has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a carrier must pay benefits or reimburse the employer for medical expenses incurred in connection with the injury. That was the opinion of the Beaumont Court of Appeals on Texas Mutual Insurance Company’s petition for writ of mandamus, after the district court abused its discretion in denying Texas Mutual’s motion to dismiss a coverage lawsuit brought by the employer. The per curiam opinion was the first appellate decision applying the Texas Supreme Court’s seminal holding in In re Crawford & Company that the Workers’ Compensation Act’s process and remedies for disputes over benefits or the “investigation, handling or settlement of a claim” are “exclusive” of all other remedies. Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster at both the district and appellate levels. The petition for writ of mandamus was conditionally granted without oral argument.

In re Texas Mutual Ins. Co., No. 09-15-00265-CV, 2015 WL 4760174 (Tex. App.—Beaumont Aug. 13, 2015, orig. proceeding).

Texas Supreme Court Upholds Eastland Mandamus

Written by A&P News on April 13th, 2012. Posted in Appeals, Judicial Review

The Texas Supreme Court today denied the Motion for Rehearing of Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd. in its request for mandamus review of the Eastland Court of Appeals decision in In re Texas Mutual Ins. Co.. In 2010, the Eastland Court of Appeals granted the petition for writ of mandamus filed by Arnold & Placek on behalf of Texas Mutual, holding that employers do not have a general right of standing to intervene in judicial review suits by their employees. The Eastland Court held that standing in a workers’ compensation suit must have a statutory basis. Accordingly, the Eastland court instructed the trial judge to dismiss Amerimex’s petition in intervention.

Amerimex then filed a petition for writ of mandamus asking the Supreme Court to reinstate their suit. The Supreme Court denied the petition on September 30, 2011, and denied the motion for rehearing today. Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Scott Arnold of Arnold & Placek, and by the firm of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon and Moody.