BERTILA CHICAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS BENEFICIARY OF SANTIAGO CHICAS, DECEASED, Appellant
TEXAS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee
Appeal from the 157th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2015-62754
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Brown and
RADACK, CHIEF JUSTICE
trial court granted Texas Mutual Insurance Company's plea
to the jurisdiction and dismissed Bertila Chicas's suit
for judicial review because it was not filed within 45 days
of a final decision by the Division of Workers'
Compensation ["DWC"]. In so ruling, the trial court
necessarily concluded that the 45-day time limit for filing a
suit for judicial review is a jurisdictional, statutory
prerequisite. Because we disagree, we reverse the judgment
and remand for further proceedings.
Chicas was cleaning the rain gutters at the home of his
employer's president when he fell from a ladder and died.
His widow, Bertila, filed a claim for death benefits and,
when Texas Mutual disputed the claim, she initiated a
proceeding before the DWC to resolve the issue. She also
filed a wrongful death action in Harris County Probate Court
several hearings, the DWC found that Santiago was not in the
course and scope of his employment at the time of his
accident and denied Bertila's claim for benefits. Bertila
filed a request for a review by the appeals panel, which
ultimately rejected her claim and issued a notice that the
hearing officer's decision was final on January 5, 2015.
In accordance with Texas Labor Code Section 410.252(a), the
If you are not satisfied with this decision and desire to
have the dispute resolved in court, then you must file a
lawsuit in the appropriate district court not later than the
45th day after the date on which the Division of the
Workers' Compensation mailed the parties the decision of
the Appeals Panel . . . .
February 4, 2015-within the 45-day time limit for initiating
a suit for judicial review-Bertila amended her petition in
the probate court to assert also her claim for judicial
review of the DWC's decision. Five months later, Texas
Mutual filed a plea to the jurisdiction in the probate court,
which the probate court granted on October 15,
October 27, 2015-twelve days after the probate court
dismissed her judicial review claims-Bertila refiled those
claims in Harris County District Court. Texas Mutual filed a
plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the 45-day deadline
for judicial review was jurisdictional. Bertila responds that
the 45-day deadline is not jurisdictional, and because it is
not jurisdictional, the tolling statute found in section
16.064 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code applies and makes
her filing in district court timely.
trial court granted Texas Mutual's plea to the
jurisdiction, dismissed Bertila's judicial review claims,
and this appeal followed.
OF DISMISSAL FOR WANT OF JURISDICTION
Mutual contends that the 45-day deadline for seeking judicial
review set forth in section 410.252(a) is jurisdictional. The
trial court agreed and granted Texas Mutual's plea to the
jurisdiction. In her sole issue on appeal, Bertila contends
"[t]he trial court erred in dismissing [her] judicial
review claims because the 45-day deadline was tolled while
the claims were pending in probate court." Texas Mutual
responds that, because the 45-day deadline is jurisdictional,
it cannot be tolled by section 16.064 of the Civil Practices
and Remedies Code.
present suit was admittedly filed more than 45 days after the
DWC's decision became final; but, if the 45-day deadline
is not jurisdictional and was tolled while her judicial
review claims were pending in probate court, then her suit
for judicial review would be timely. Thus, the issue
presented to this Court is whether the 45-day deadline for
filing claims for judicial review of a final DWC decision is
a jurisdictional, statutory prerequisite to asserting those
claims in district court.
to the jurisdiction challenges the trial court's
authority to determine the subject matter of the action.
Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547,
553-54 (Tex. 2000). The existence of subject matter
jurisdiction is a question of law that we review de novo.
Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda,
133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). We do not look to the merits
of the plaintiff's case, but consider only the pleadings
and the evidence pertinent to the jurisdictional inquiry.
Bland Indep. Sch. Dist., 34 S.W.3d at 554; City
of Houston v. Northwood Mun. Util. Dist. No. 1,
73 S.W.3d 304, 308 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2001, pet.
denied). In reviewing a jurisdictional ruling, we construe
the pleadings liberally in favor of the plaintiff, look to
the pleader's intent, and accept factual allegations as
true. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226. We indulge every
reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the
nonmovant's favor. Id. at 228.
section 410.252(a)'s 45-day deadline for seeking judicial
Kazi and In re USAA
to 2000, cases routinely held that the deadline for seeking
judicial review was both mandatory and jurisdictional because
it was a statutory prerequisite to filing suit.
E.g., Tex. Workers' Comp. Comm'n v.
Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 952 S.W.2d 949, 952
(Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1997, pet. denied) (citing
Morales v. Emp'rs Cas. Co., 897 S.W.2d 866, 868
(Tex. App.-San Antonio 1995, writ denied)); Boone v. St.
Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 968 S.W.2d 468, 470