Possibility of failure does not remove retaliation claim from court's jurisdiction
Meeks v. Swift Transportation Inc., et al., No. EP-09-CV-298-KC (W.D. Tex. 12/11/09).
The U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas remanded a worker's retaliation claim to state court, finding it arose under the state workers' compensation law.
What it means:
In Texas, a case "arises" under workers' compensation law from the instant it becomes clear that the worker will have to invoke, explain and apply workers' compensation law. An antiretaliation suit arises under state workers' compensation law and must be brought in state court.
Summary: A truck driver alleged his employer subjected him to retaliation. The employer sought to have the case heard in a federal court. The employer alleged Texas' law prohibiting workers' compensation cases from being heard in federal court did not apply because the worker's retaliation claim did not actually arise under the law. It argued the driver's claim was "doomed to failure" and was not a "legitimate" retaliation claim. The court rejected the employer's arguments. It indicated that a case arises under the workers' compensation law when a worker is obligated to establish the correctness and applicability of the law to his claim. By trying to show that the claim was not "legitimate" and discussing the scope of protection offered by the antiretaliation statute, the employer raised questions concerning the correctness and applicability. These concerns, noted the court, are "the very hallmarks of a case arising under a particular body of law." It remanded the retaliation claim to state court.
The court explained that by the time the court ruled on whether the invocation of the antiretaliation law was well-taken or misguided, it would be too late because the suit had already arisen under the law. It pointed out that even a poorly founded claim, vulnerable to dismissal for failure to state a claim, could arise under the very law which, by failing to satisfy its terms or tests, dooms the claim.
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January 25, 2010
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