Appeal from the 270th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2015-27521
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Brown and
employee of a temporary staffing agency, Ruben Guevara, was
injured while working for a waste disposal company, Waste
Corporation of Texas, L.P., as a helper on a garbage truck
driven by Waste Corp.'s employee, Erol Mauricio Gonzales.
Guevara sued Waste Corp. and Gonzales for negligence and
gross negligence. In response, Waste Corp. and Gonzales filed
a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Guevara's claims
were barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Texas
Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court sustained the
plea and dismissed Guevara's claims.
appeal, Guevara contends that (1) Waste Corp. and Gonzales
failed to meet their burden of proving that Waste Corp. was
Guevara's employer and a subscriber of workers'
compensation insurance, (2) a plea to the jurisdiction was an
improper procedure for determining whether his claims were
barred by the TWCA's exclusive remedy provision, and (3)
the trial court abused its discretion by implicitly denying
his motion for continuance to conduct additional discovery.
their names suggest, Waste Corp. is a waste disposal company,
and United Staffing Management LLC is a temporary staffing
agency. Waste Corp. and United entered into an agreement by
which United provided Waste Corp. with "qualified
temporary employees . . . to perform waste collection and
related services . . . ."
the agreement, United selected the employees, verified
workforce eligibility, maintained personnel and payroll
records, calculated wages due from information provided by
Waste Corp., withheld and remitted necessary taxes, issued
checks for wages, and removed the employees at Waste
Corp.'s request. United was required to have workers'
compensation insurance for the temporary employees and to
name Waste Corp. as an insured under the policy.
agreement provided that the temporary employees were and
would remain United employees and were not entitled to
participate in any of Waste Corp.'s employee benefits
plans. The agreement further provided that the temporary
employees would perform under Waste Corp.'s
"direction, supervision, and control" and that
Waste Corp. would "undertake to provide all information,
instructions, training or supervision customary or necessary
to the performance of the duties assigned."
uncontroverted affidavit, Waste Corp.'s Regional Vice
President, Matt Graham, stated that workers provided by
United reported to Waste Corp.'s site and that Waste
Corp. directed and controlled the details of their work,
determined their hours and work schedules, set their service
routes, and verified their time. Graham further stated that
Waste Corp. could, in its discretion, directly hire United
workers for permanent positions and terminate them from their
to the agreement, United assigned Guevara to work for Waste
Corp. as a driver's helper, assisting garbage truck
drivers on residential collection routes. Graham averred that
driver-helpers like Guevara reported to Waste Corp. drivers
and received on-the-job training from them. Graham further
stated that, while working for Waste Corp., Guevara reported
directly to Waste Corp.'s facility at the beginning and
end of each work shift and was directed by the drivers whom
he assisted. According to Graham, Guevara identified himself
as "Carlos Ramirez" and was known to Waste Corp. by
weeks into the job, Guevara was injured while working as a
helper for a truck driver on a residential collection route.
The truck was owned by Waste Corp. and was driven by a
permanent Waste Corp. employee, Erol Mauricio Gonzales.
sued Waste Corp. and Gonzales in state district
court. Guevara asserted claims for negligence and
gross negligence. Waste Corp. and Gonzales asserted as an
affirmative defense the exclusive remedy provision of the
TWCA. They also filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing
that the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of
Workers' Compensation had exclusive jurisdiction over
Guevara's claims. The evidence attached to their plea
included (1) an affidavit from Graham, and (2) an affidavit
of WCA Waste Corporation Director of Risk Management, Melissa
Valerio, who explained Waste Corp.'s workers'
responding to the plea, Guevara filed traditional and
no-evidence motions for partial summary judgment on Waste
Corp.'s and Gonzales's exclusive remedy defense.
Guevara argued that Waste Corp. was not his employer, that
Waste Corp. did not provide workers' compensation
insurance for United employees, and that Waste Corp.
identified him as a United employee when it reported his
injuries to its workers' compensation insurer.
evidence attached to Guevara's
traditional-summary-judgment motion included (1) the
agreement between Waste Corp. and United; (2) a workers'
compensation injury report on Guevara's injury submitted
by Waste Corp. to its workers' compensation insurer; (3)
a letter from counsel for a local hospital stating that a
Waste Corp. representative had advised the hospital that
Guevara (as opposed to "Carlos Ramirez") was not a
Waste Corp. employee; (4) a letter from Guevara's counsel
to Waste Corp.'s claims adjuster, Emma Williams,
requesting a copy of Waste Corp.'s workers'
compensation insurance policy; (5) a set of United checks for
"Carlos Ramirez"; and (6) a certificate of training
issued by United to "Carlos Ramirez." The letter
from the hospital, the set of checks, and the certificate of
training were never authenticated.
also responded to Waste Corp.'s and Gonzales's plea.
In his response, Guevara made substantially the same
arguments as he did in his summary-judgment motions, and he
stated that the trial court's analysis was "guided
by" the exclusive remedy provision. He did not object
that a plea to the jurisdiction was an improper procedure for
determining whether his claims were barred.
the parties briefed the merits of the plea and
summary-judgment motions, Guevara filed an unverified,
one-page motion for a continuance to conduct additional
discovery. The motion was filed over four months after Waste
Corp. and Gonzales filed their plea and over ...