AUSTIN, April 5, 2019 - In a major victory for Baker Botts' Appellate and Supreme Court practice, the Texas Supreme Court in Texas Mutual Insurance Co. v. Chicas ruled that a deadline for challenging a decision by the Texas workers compensation agency is not jurisdictional. The firm persuaded the Texas Supreme Court to overrule seven different Texas courts of appeals that had issued contrary rulings.
Baker Botts partner and Supreme Court and Constitutional Law practice co-chair Scott Keller argued the case to the Supreme Court. This was Scott Keller’s ninth Texas Supreme Court argument, but his first appellate argument since joining Baker Botts late in 2018. Baker Botts partner Tom Phillips and Lisa Hobbs of Kuhn Hobbs prepared the briefs. Additionally, Terry Bryant and Steve Waldman of Terry Bryant PLLC were counsel on trial and appeal.
In this appeal, Baker Botts represented the respondent, Ms. Bertila Chicas, a widow who sought to press workers compensation claims stemming from her husband’s death. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Jeff Brown, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the 45-day deadline for Ms. Chicas to challenge the decision of a Division of Workers’ Compensation appeals panel by appealing to district court was mandatory but not jurisdictional. In other words, a party arguing that this deadline was not met needs to raise and preserve that argument, and such an argument can be waived if not raised properly because this does not go to a court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
This case furthers the goal of providing finality for judgments, as the Court explained: “If the 45-day deadline is jurisdictional, this would leave final judgments vulnerable to attack on the ground that the deadline was not met.” The Court then remanded the case for lower courts to consider whether the deadline was tolled under state law by Ms. Chicas filing her claim within the 45-day deadline in the probate court rather than the district court.
Read more information on Baker Botts’ Appellate and Supreme Court practice here.
To schedule an interview with Mr. Phillips or Mr. Keller, please email Sheena Cochran ([email protected]).
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