BEAUMONT – Water utility staff for the city of Beaumont who were demoted or lost their job because of an evaluation performed by CH2M Engineers can proceed with their suits, thanks to a recent appellate court ruling. More than a year ago, several current and former city employees filed suit against CH2M in Jefferson County District Court, seeking damages for defamation and tortious interference with a contract.
In September of 2014, CH2M and the city entered into an agreement for CH2M to evaluate the city’s water distribution and sewer collection services.
CH2M produced a written report summarizing its findings and offering recommendations for improving the city’s operations, which was critical of some of the city’s practices, including the amount of overtime incurred by the water utility staff, referring to it as “excessively high,” court records state.
The city then made personnel changes to the water utility staff, including the demotion, termination, or forced resignation of the plaintiffs.
In their suits, the plaintiffs contend the report “was deceptive, spurious, false, forged, and bogus.”
On June 3, 2016, CH2M filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Section 150.002 of the Texas Civil Code, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to timely file the required “certificate of merit” setting forth each theory for which damages are sought, as well as the negligence or other action, error, or omission of the engineer.
After a hearing, the trial court denied CH2M’s motion. The company then appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying its motion to dismiss.
On Dec. 7, the Ninth Court of Appeals concluded CH2M failed to meet its burden of proof to show an abuse of discretion by the trial court.
“While the record contains evidence that CH2M is registered with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, the record does not contain any evidence that a licensed or registered professional practices within CH2M,” the opinion states, authored by Justice Charles Kreger.
“Moreover, the report is not signed by a licensed or registered engineer, but only issued by ‘CH2M Hill.’ CH2M has not proven, or even identified a single licensed professional engineer who performed professional engineering services for the firm.
“The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied CH2M’s motion to dismiss. We affirm the trial court’s order.”
Appeals case No. 09-16-00479-CV
The plaintiffs, which includes Brandy Springer, Hani Tohme, Frank Jackson, George Randle, Leonard Faulk and Trent Thibodeaux, are represented by Missouri City attorney Larry Watts.
The company is represented in part by Mehaffy Weber attorney David Gaultney.
Trial case No. B-198,469