HOUSTON – The First Court of Appeals recently reversed a ruling granting The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center governmental immunity from a disability discrimination lawsuit.
In 2017, David Deville filed suit against MD Anderson, alleging that he was terminated less than three months after returning from disability leave following a stroke.
Court records show MD Anderson filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that it retained sovereign immunity from suit because Deville did not plead a prima facie case of disability discrimination despite having an adequate opportunity to do so.
The trial court granted MD Anderson’s plea and dismissed Deville’s suit.
Deville appealed on the grounds that he was not required to plead a prima facie case at the pleadings stage in order to trigger the waiver of sovereign immunity under the Texas Commission on Humans Rights Act, and, in the alternative, he satisfied his burden to plead a prima facie case of disability discrimination.
On Aug. 26, the First Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings.
“We hold that Deville was required to plead a prima facie case of disability discrimination to trigger a waiver of M.D. Anderson’s sovereign immunity, and Deville carried his pleading burden in this case,” the opinion states.
“Construing the pleadings in Deville’s favor and looking to his intent in pleading, as we must, we conclude that Deville has alleged basic facts allowing an inference that he was subjected to an adverse employment decision because of his disability.”
Appeals case No. 01-19-00830-CV
Written by David Yates