BEAUMONT – The Ninth Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court’s ruling to grant the city of Port Arthur’s plea to the jurisdiction in a suit brought by a man claiming he was fired for refusing to drive a defective garbage truck.
Under the Texas Whistleblower Act, plaintiff David Jones filed suit against the city on Sept. 12, 2012, in Jefferson County District Court.
As the litigation proceeded, the city filed its plea, along with traditional and no-evidence motions for summary judgment, court records show.
Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, granted the city’s plea to the jurisdiction and motions for summary judgment, dismissing Jones’ claims.
On appeal, Jones argued Floyd erred and abused his discretion, maintaining he presented numerous issues of material fact that should have been resolved by a jury, and that he demonstrated that the city violated the Texas Whistleblower Act.
On Nov. 17, justices affirmed Floyd’s order granting the city’s plea to the jurisdiction.
“Jones failed to establish an objective, good-faith belief that he reported an alleged violation of the law to appropriate law-enforcement authorities that caused him to suffer an adverse personnel action under the Act,” the Ninth Court’s opinion states.
“Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court did not err in determining it lacked jurisdiction over Jones’s Whistleblower action and in dismissing the cause. We overrule Jones’s two issues and affirm the trial court’s judgment.”
According to the original complaint, Jones, a garbage truck driver, alleges he received orders on May 16, 2012, to not drive any defective garbage trucks.
At the time, media reports showed that the city of Port Arthur had a series of mechanical breakdowns in its garbage fleet. At one point, 7 out of 10 trucks were out of service.
So, when Jones was assigned a truck that he claims was leaking potentially flammable hydraulic oil on May 23, he refused to drive it, according to the complaint.
Because of Jones’s refusal to drive the truck, he was sent home early, the complaint says.
Angered, Jones posted a video to YouTube, condemning the city’s actions.
“The video sharply criticized the city’s management and how it handles race relations among supervisors and workers,” the suit states.
In addition to posting the video, Jones claims he reported unsafe working conditions to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
After conducting an investigation, the federal agency found the city in violation of an ordinance requiring it to collect solid waste at least once per week, according to the complaint.
On June 8, 2012, following his complaint and video, Jones was terminated from his job with the city, the complaint says.
Jones filed an appeal of his termination on June 11, 2012. During the appeal committee hearing, city managers admitted to firing Jones because of his failure to drive a defective truck and due to his video posting, according to Jones’s current complaint.
Although the appeals committee was aware of the reasons behind Jones’s firing, it upheld the termination, the suit states.
Jones is represented by attorney Stephen Webb.
The city is represented by attorney Frank Calvert.
Trial court case No. E193-143
Appeals case No. 09-14-00442-CV