HOUSTON – A trial court erred by not dismissing a discrimination claim brought against The University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center, an appellate court recently found.
Last October, plaintiff April Porter, a black woman, filed suit against MD Anderson for race and gender discrimination and for retaliation, court records show.
In response, MD Anderson moved to dismiss under Rule 91a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows a party to seek dismissal of a groundless lawsuit, arguing that its immunity was not waived because Porter failed to bring her suit within the two-year statute of limitations.
Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss, maintaining jurisdiction over the case, and subsequently leading MD Anderson to file a notice of appeal in February, court records show.
On Nov. 2, the 14th Court of Appeals issued an opinion finding Porter, a former pharmacy technician with MD Anderson, waited three years, one month, and twenty days to bring her lawsuit after initially filing her charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August of 2013.
On appeal, Porter had argued that even if her suit was untimely filed, the limitations period should be equitably tolled – a principle of law stating that a statute of limitations shall not bar a claim in cases where the plaintiff, despite use of due diligence, could not or did not discover the injury until after the expiration of the limitations period.
“The Supreme Court of Texas has recognized that equitable tolling of statutes is not applicable to a jurisdictional statutory requirement,” the opinion states. “Because the statutory requirement that suit be filed within two years is jurisdictional when, as here, the defendant is a governmental entity, we do not apply the equitable tolling doctrine.
“For these reasons, the trial court erred in denying appellant’s motion to dismiss.”
Justices reversed the trial court’s order and rendered judgment dismissing the suit.
Attorney General Ken Paxton and his office represent MD Anderson.
Houston attorney Craig Keener represents Porter.
Cause No. 14-17-00107-CV