Appeal from the 295th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-68806
consists of Justices Jamison, Busby, and Donovan.
appeal arises from the trial court's denial of a motion
to dismiss filed by appellant The University of Texas - MD
Anderson Cancer Center pursuant to Rule 91a of the Texas
Rules of Civil Procedure. Tex.R.Civ.P. 91a. On appeal,
appellant contends the trial court erred because appellee
April Porter failed to invoke the trial court's
jurisdiction by filing her suit within the applicable
two-year statute of limitations. See Tex. Lab. Code
§ 21.256. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse
and render a judgment of dismissal.
filed suit against appellant for race and gender
discrimination and for retaliation. Appellant filed a motion
to dismiss under Rule 91a on the basis that its immunity was
not waived because appellee failed to file suit within the
two-year statute of limitations and the trial court therefore
lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case.
See Tex. Lab. Code § 21.256. Following a
hearing, the trial court denied appellant's motion.
Appellant then brought this interlocutory appeal.
See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §
51.014(a)(8); see also Texas Dep't of Crim. Justice
v. Simons, 140 S.W.3d 38, 349 (Tex. 2004) ("The
reference to a 'plea to the jurisdiction' [in section
51.014(a)(8)] is not to a particular procedural vehicle but
to the substance of the issue raised. Thus, an interlocutory
appeal may be taken from a refusal to dismiss for want of
jurisdiction whether the jurisdictional argument is presented
by plea to the jurisdiction or some other vehicle . .
."); City of Austin v. Liberty Mut. Ins., 431
S.W.3d 817, 821 (Tex. App.-Austin 2014, no pet.).
review a trial court's ruling on a Rule 91a motion to
dismiss de novo. Wooley v. Schaffer, 447 S.W.3d 71,
76 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, pet. denied). Rule
91a allows a party to move to dismiss a cause of action on
the ground that it has no basis in law or in fact.
See Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. To decide whether a
pleading has a basis in law, we determine whether the
evidence at trial would enable reasonable people to reach the
verdict under review. Wooley, 447 S.W.3d at 76
(citing Tex.R.Civ.P. 91a). To decide whether a pleading has a
basis in fact, we determine whether a "reasonable person
could believe the facts pleaded." Tex.R.Civ.P. 91a. Our
determinations of whether a cause of action has any basis in
law and in fact is based on the allegations of the live
petition and any attachments thereto. Id. Rule 91a
A motion to dismiss must identify each cause of action to
which it is addressed and must state specifically the reasons
the cause of action has no basis in law, no basis in fact, or
Rule 91a motions to dismiss as analogous to pleas to the
jurisdiction, because both require the court to determine
whether the pleader has alleged facts demonstrating
jurisdiction. Wooley, 447 S.W.3d at 75. To determine
if the pleader has alleged facts that affirmatively
demonstrate the trial court's jurisdiction over a claim,
we construe the pleadings liberally in favor of the
plaintiff, look to the pleader's intent, and accept as
true the factual allegations in the pleadings. Id.
University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center is a
governmental unit generally immune from tort liability.
See Hampton v. Univ. of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer
Ctr., 6 S.W.3d 627, 628 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.]
1999, no pet.). The timely filing of a lawsuit under the
Texas Commission on Human Rights Act ("TCHRA") is a
statutory prerequisite to filing suit and as such is
jurisdictional when the defendant is a governmental entity.
See Prairie View A & M Univ. v. Chatha, 381
S.W.3d 500, 514 (Tex. 2012) (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. &
Rem. Code § 311.034). This is so because the TCHRA's
waiver of sovereign immunity is limited and a claimant can
bring suit under the TCHRA against a governmental entity only
after a claimant strictly satisfies the procedural
requirements outlined in the TCHRA. Prairie View A &
M Univ., 381 S.W.3d at 513-14 (quoting Mission
Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Garcia, 253 S.W.3d 653, 660
(Tex. 2008), "[T]he Legislature . . . has consented to
suits brought under the TCHRA, provided the procedures
outlined in the statute have been met."). Otherwise, the
suit is jurisdictionally barred. Id.
time frame within which an action for employment
discrimination must be brought is set forth in section 21.256
of the Texas Labor Code. Tex. Lab. Code § 21.256. It
provides that "[a] civil action may not be brought under
this subchapter later than the second anniversary of the date
the complaint relating to the action is filed."
Id. Courts have held that compliance with this
specific deadline is a statutory prerequisite to suit and
therefore a jurisdictional requirement in a suit against a
governmental entity. Goss v. City of Houston, 391
S.W.3d 168, 172 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2012, no
91a motions to dismiss are analogous to pleas to the
jurisdiction, requiring a court to determine whether the
pleader has alleged facts demonstrating jurisdiction.
Wooley, 447 S.W.3d at 75 (citing See Tex.
Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d
217, 225-26 (Tex. 2004)). "In that context, we construe
the pleadings liberally in favor of the plaintiff, look to
the pleader's intent, and accept as true the factual
allegations in the pleadings to determine if the pleader ...