The Supreme Court of Texas has agreed to hear the case of In re Frank Kent Motor Co. d/b/a Frank Kent Cadillac, No. 10-0687. In that case, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals denied the employer’s application for writ of mandamus and refused to overrule the trial court’s decision not to enforce/honor an agreement between the employer and employee to resolve all disputes in with a trial sitting without a jury (i.e., a bench trial).
I’ve advocated the use of jury waivers by Texas employers because I think they can provide many of the advantages of arbitration at less cost (see posts here and here). However, the thing I found most interesting about this case is that it involved the same agreement that only six months after the Fort Worth Appellate Court order effectively denying enforcement, the Fort Worth Appeals Court enforced by way of mandamus. See post here. The only meaningful differences in the two cases are the identity of the plaintiff-employee and the members of the Court that decided the two cases. Two of the three Fort Worth Justices participated in both cases. Justice Meiers, however, wrote the opinion conditionally granting mandamus relief and thereby effectively enforcing the agreement. He was not on the panel that denied the application for mandamus in the case accepted by the Supreme Court. Oral argument at the Supreme Court will be scheduled in Austin later this year and an opinion expected in the next 12 months.
If you are a Texas employer and want to learn more about effective use of jury waiver, feel free to drop me an e-mail.