Wikipedia says that “inside baseball” is a phrase mostly used in the United States, referring to something that is understood by only a small group of insiders. Today, the Dawg offers a little inside baseball about litigation, and some provisions of Texas law.
Parents of a student in Fort Worth ISD sued the district and a teacher over alleged physical injuries their child suffered at school. The court dismissed all claims. Here’s how it went:
Qualified immunity for the teacher: The federal claim against the teacher was dismissed because the teacher asserted his “qualified immunity” and the plaintiffs failed to respond to it. If you don’t respond, the court deems your claim “abandoned.”
Federal claims against the district: The same thing happened here. The lawyers for the district filed a detailed Motion to Dismiss this claim. The plaintiffs did not adequately respond. The claim is deemed “abandoned.”
Notice that the court has not told us that the claims against the teacher or the district lacked merit; the court has said that the plaintiffs failed to vigorously pursue the matter.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED): This claim was made against the district and the teacher. But there is a statute that says you can’t get away with that. The statute says that it you file suit against a governmental unit it constitutes “an irrevocable election by the plaintiff and immediately and forever bars any suit or recovery by the plaintiff against any individual employee of the governmental unit regarding the same subject matter.” So the IIED claim against the teacher had to be dismissed.
Assault: This claim against the teacher was also dismissed. Again, there is a statute in Texas: if you sue an employee over a claim that could have been brought against the governmental unit, the suit is automatically considered one that is brought against the employee in the “official capacity.” So the claim against the teacher as an individual was dismissed. Suits against an employee in “official capacity” is really a suit against the employer.
ADA claim against the district: This claim was dismissed because it should have been the subject of a special education due process hearing. The court held that the “gravamen” of the complaint was about lack of educational opportunity for a student with a disability. That must go to a due process hearing officer before it goes to court.
Thus all claims were dismissed for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with the merits of the claim. Was the boy injured by school personnel? We may never know. What we do know is that the district’s lawyers displayed a good understanding of some fairly obscure legal provisions and doctrines. Inside baseball.
The case is Colin v. Fort Worth ISD, decided by the federal court for the Northern District of Texas on August 27, 2018. We found it at 2018 WL 4078272.
DAWG BONE: ALMOST AS COMPLICATED AS THE INFIELD FLY RULE.