The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston recently held that it is the date the employee is provided notice of termination, and not the termination date itself, that commences the statute of limitations in a breach of contract case. You can read the Memorandum Opinion in Malallah v. Noble Logistic Services, Inc. here.
Bader Malallah entered a three year employment contract with Noble Logistic Services, Inc. (“Noble”) that could be terminated earlier, without notice, for certain enumerated acts or omissions. Prior to the end of the three year term, Noble terminated Malallah’s employment. Four years and seven days after Malallah was first advised that his employment was terminated, but less than four years after his termination was memorialized in writing, Malallah sued for breach of contract.
Noble defended the suit on the grounds that the claims was not filed within the four year statute of limitations that applies to breach of contract claims because it was filed more than four years after Malallah was first given notice of his termination. At trial, the jury found that Malallah was terminated without good cause but also found that his termination occurred on March 2, 2001 (the date he was first given any notice of termination) rather than on March 16, 2001 (the date his termination was memorialized in writing). Therefore, despite the jury’s finding that Malallah was terminated without good cause, the the trial court found that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations based on the jury’s answer as to the date of termination and entered judgment for Noble. The Houston Court of Appeals [14th Dist.] affirmed that judgment.