Fire Fighter Cases From the Texas Courts of Appeals

The City of Houston v. Williams (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 31, 2009)(Seymore) (Op. on remand by
Seymore) (
governmental entity immunity, plea to the jurisdiction, immunity waiver by statute, firefighter pay
We conclude the City's ordinances setting forth the essential terms of  the firefighters' overtime
and termination pay constitute written contracts subject to the waiver of governmental immunity
in Texas Local Government Code section 171.152.  Accordingly, we overrule the City's sole issue
and affirm the order of the trial court.
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Justice Seymore   
Before Justices Brock Yates, Seymore and Boyce
14-08-00059-CV The City of Houston v. Steve Williams, Et Al
Appeal from 80th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Llynn Bradshaw-Hull

Houston Court of Appeals says failure to obtain EMT certification is not a disciplinary matter, thus
civil service protections do not apply to termination for that reason; - one justice disagreed
Jackson v. City of Texas City (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] July 24, 2008)(Keyes)
public employment, fire department, dismissal, civil service commission)
Justice Evelyn Keyes  
Before Justices Taft, Keyes and Alcala
Anthony Jackson and James Nunez v. City of Texas City and Debbie Lesco, Texas City Civil Service Director
Appeal from 212th District Court of Galveston County
Trial Court
Judge: Hon. Susan Elizabeth Criss  
Dissenting Opinion by Justice Alcala

Houston court of appeals, on en banc rehearing, disagrees with panel in suit against firefighter
who caused collision and asserted official immunity; Dissenting justice on panel writes court's
new opinion
Green v. Alford (Tex.App.(Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] July 15, 2008)(Opinion on en banc rehearing by
Guzman) (PI, fire truck collision,
affirmative defense of official immunity properly rejected)  
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Eva Guzman  
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Brock Yates, Anderson, Hudson, Fowler, Frost, Seymore, Guzman,
Brown and Boyce
14-05-00407-CV   Christopher Green v. Dwainia Alford, Individually and as Next Friend of Aaron Alford and
Ronald Alford
Appeal from 152nd District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: Kenneth Price Wise
Concurring Opinion by Justice Frost   
Dissenting Opinion by Justice Hudson   

City may not use Declaratory Judgments Act to circumvent absence of authority to seek judicial
review of commission decision in disciplinary matter
City of Houston v. Buttitta (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] July 17, 2008)(Hanks)
City of Houston litigation, DJA, firefighters and policemen, disciplinary action, plea to the jurisdiction against
city proper)
Justice George C. Hanks, Jr.
Before Justices Alcala, Hanks and Higley
01-07-00323-CV        City of Houston v. Joseph A. Buttitta
Appeal from 113th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: Hon. Patricia Hancock

Woods v City of Galveston (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] June 24, 2008) (Guzman)
public employment disputes, discrimination suit by fire fighter)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Eva Guzman  
Before Justices Brock Yates, Guzman and Brown)
14-06-01022-CV Tarris Woods v. City of Galveston, Texas and City of Galveston Fire Fighters' and Police
Officers' Civil Service Commission
Appeal from 56th District Court of Galveston County
Trial Court Judge: Lonnie Cox  

Houston Fire Fighter prevails on appeal, but decision hinges on jurisdiction on several levels,
rather than the merits of disciplinary action taken against firefighter, which prompted the litigation
City of Houston v. Clark (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 18, 2008)(Majority Opinion by Frost after
remand from Texas Supreme Court; See--->
City of Houston v. Clark (Tex. 2006)
(firefighter litigation, immunity plea, claim, lack of jurisdiction over dispute, independent hearing examiner, no
jurisdiction for judicial review or declaratory judgment suit)
Justice Frost
14-03-00399-CV The City of Houston v. Donald Clark
Appeal from 333rd District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Hon. Joseph J. Halbach
Concurring Opinion by Justice Edelman In City of Houston v. Clark (2008)   

City of Houston looses firefighter grievance appeal; court of appeals rejects immunity plea  
City of Houston v. Hildebrandt (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Feb. 28, 2008)(Hanks) (firefighter litigation,
UDJA, declaratory judgment, successful grievance, statutory penalty against city affirmed)
AFFIRM TC JUDGMENT: Opinion by Justice Hanks
Before Justices Nuchia, Hanks and Higley
01-06-00936-CV City of Houston v. Alan Hildebrandt
Appeal from 165th District Court of Harris County (
Judge Elizabeth Ray)

Court of Appeals vacates arbitration award in firefighters' dispute with City of Beaumont
Court panel holds that arbitrators went beyond the scope of their authority.
The City of Beaumont v. International Association of Firefighters, Local Union No. 399, No. 09-06-00481-CV
(Tex.App.- Beaumont, Nov. 8, 2007)(Opinion by Justice Horton) (fire fighter litigation,

Houston Court of Appeals Holds that Firefighter was entitled to official immunity in suit based on
collision with fire truck - reverses judgment for plaintiffs
(UPDATE: This opinion was withdrawn by
court sitting en banc; new opinion issued July 15, 2008 results in different decision)
Green v. Alford (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 27, 2007)(Superseded opinion by Hudson)(PI,  auto
accidents, personal injury, firefighter liability,
official immunity, good faith) Justice Guzman dissented in Green
v. Alford (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 27, 2007)(Dissenting opinion by Guzman)

City of Houston v. Jackson, No. 04-0465 (Tex. Apr. 7, 2006)
(sovereign immunity law, cities, firefighter litigation pay)

Texas Firefighter Cases Decided by the Texas Supreme Court

Dallas Fire Fighters Association v. City of Dallas, No. 04-0821 (Tex. Jun. 1, 2007)(per curiam)

Supreme Court Rules Against Houston Firefighters, But Gives Them Another Chance

City of Houston v. Williams, No. 06-0159 (Tex. Feb. 23, 2007)(per curiam opinion)(UDJA, immunity)

Supreme Court holds that terminated firefighters cannot rely on Declaratory Judgment Act to establish
jurisdiction in dispute over amount of lump sum payments for vacation and sick leave with the City of Houston.
Although the suit involved legitimate question of statutory construction, the only plausible remedy was
monetary damages. Court holds that firefighters could not circumvent City's immunity be characterizing their
suit as one for declaratory judgment. Firefighters did not seek prospective relief and thus lacked standing to
sue on behalf of those currently employed. Citing its 2006 precedent-setting decision in Tooke v. Mexia, the
Court also rejects the argument that "sue and be sued" language in the City of Houston Charter provides an
alternative jurisdictional basis for the firefighters' suit against the City. Contrary holdings on this waiver issue
provided conflicts jurisdiction for the Supreme Court in this interlocutory appeal. Without hearing oral
argument, the Court reverses the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, but remands to the trial court to afford
firefighters an opportunity to assert their claim under the newly enacted statute that waives immunity for from
suit for certain claims against local governments, including cities.

Key cases:
Tooke v. City of Mexia, 197 S.W.3d 325 (Tex.2006); City of Houston v. Jones, 197 S.W.3d 391
(Tex. 2006).

Legal terms and cross-references: Sovereign immunity, statutory waiver, plea to the jurisdiction, Local
Government Code,
Tooke v. Mexia progeny, firefighter caselaw, interlocutory appeal, conflicts jurisdiction

Firefighters' waiver of immunity arguments fail, but not all - Court remands pay dispute

City of Dallas v. Saucedo-Falls, et al.; No. 05-0973 (Tex. Mar. 9, 2007)(per curiam)
(sovereign immunity; fire fighters given chance to argue waiver by conduct or statute on remand)

City's Charter does not waive governmental immunity, but statute recently passed by the Texas
Legislature may provide allow firefighters to proceed with claim

City of Sweetwater, Texas v. Waddell, et al: No. 05-1033 (Tex. Mar. 9, 2007)(per curiam)(“sue and be sued”
provision in charter does not waive city’s immunity under
Tooke v. City of Mexia; firefighters given chance of
argue new limited statutory immunity waiver on remand)

Dismissal of City's appeal in fire fighter's employment dispute reversed

City of Houston v. Clark, No. 04-0930 (Tex. Jun. 30, 2006)(Justice Harriet O’Neill)(fire fighters, litigation
involving the City of Houston)
In this case, we must decide whether Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code, known as the Fire Fighter
and Police Officer Civil Service Act, authorizes municipalities to appeal adverse decisions of independent
hearing examiners. We hold that it does. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment of dismissal
and remand the case to that court for consideration of the City of Houston’s appeal.
. . . .
Conclusion. We hold that Section 143.1016(j) of the Local Government Code affords the City of Houston the
right to appeal the independent hearing examiner’s adverse decision in this case, and the court of appeals
erred in dismissing the City’s appeal. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment dismissing the
City’s appeal for want of jurisdiction and remand the case to that court for further proceedings.

Texas Supreme Court Overturns Appeals Court Ruling in Favor of Houston Firefighters

City of Houston v. Jackson, No. 04-0465 (Tex. Apr. 7, 2006)(Justice O’Neill)    
sovereign immunity law, cities, firefighter compensation, fire fighter employment grievance, penalty, plea to
the jurisdiction, two appeals in the court of appeals below, law of case doctrine does not preclude Texas
Supreme Court from reviewing issue in first, interlocutory appeal]
04-0465 THE CITY OF HOUSTON v. ROBERT JACKSON; from Harris County; 1st district (01 02 00879 CV,
135 S.W.3d 891, 04 01 04)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and dismisses respondent's statutory penalty claim for
want of jurisdiction.

Justice O'Neill delivered the opinion of the Court:

“Section 143.134(h) of the Texas Local Government Code imposes a $1,000 penalty payable to an
aggrieved fire fighter for each day a department head intentionally fails to implement a decision of the Fire
Fighters’ and Police Officers’ Civil Service Commission (the “Commission”) under Section 143.131 or a
decision of a hearing examiner under Section 143.129 that has become final. Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code Section
143.134(h). The court of appeals held that the penalty provision also applies to a grievance examiner’s
unappealed recommendation under Section 143.130 of the Code. 135 S.W.3d 891. We hold that, by the
provision’s plain language, it does not. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and dismiss
Jackson’s statutory penalty claim for want of jurisdiction.”

Thomas v. CNC Investments, LLP, 234 SW3d 111 (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] May 31, 2007)(common-law
firefighter rule, premises liability, negligence, accidental shooting, working as security guard)  
Firefighter Cases
from Texas Courts of Appeals
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