Texas Supreme Court Argument Preview - 2/8/17

Posted by Rich PhillipsOn Wednesday, February 8, 2017, beginning at 9:00 am, the Supreme Court of Texas will hear argument in three cases:No.14-0979, Forest Oil Corp. v. El Rucio Land and Cattle Co., et al. — This appeal challenges the award by an arbitration panel of damages for environmental contamination to the McAllen ranch in Hidalgo County, Texas. The petitioner claims that the arbitration panel should not have exercised jurisdiction over a case about contamination from oil and gas waste where the Railroad Commission has exclusive, or at least primary, jurisdiction over that waste. The petitioner also challenges the impartiality of the arbitration panel and whether the award should be vacated under the Texas General Arbitration Act because the panel exceeded their powers by awarding declaratory relief and punitive damages.No. 15-0575, El Paso Healthcare System Ltd. v. Murphy —This appeal stems from the respondent’s termination from her employment as a nurse anesthetist at the petitioner hospital after a verbal dispute with an attending doctor about whether a patient had given informed consent for a surgical procedure. The doctor lodged a complaint against the nurse for interfering with the medical management of a patient, and she simultaneously filed an ethics complaint against the doctor. After the hospital asked the nurse’s staffing agency not to schedule her for two consecutive weeks at that hospital while it conducted an investigation, the nurse sued for retaliation under Texas Health and Safety Code section 161.135, which prohibits a hospital from retaliating against a non-employee for reporting a violation of law in good faith, and for tortious interference with contract. The primary issue in this appeal is whether the nurse established a good-faith belief that what she reported was a “violation of law.”No. 15-0844, First Bank v. Brumitt  —The primary issue in this appeal is whether extrinsic evidence may be used to determine whether a party is a third-party beneficiary to an unambiguous written agreement. The appeal arose after a bank agreed to fund a commercial loan for the plaintiffs to buy stock from the respondent Brumitt. After the bank failed to fund the loan, Brumitt intervened as a third party beneficiary.You can watch the arguments live (or access a recording after the fact), here.