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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Texas Local Government Code ��143.115-116 requires that Houston firefighters receive lump-sum payments of accumulated vacation and sick leave upon termination. A group of 321 firefighters alleged that the city improperly calculated these payments and also improperly deducted alleged overpayments of overtime. The firefighters sued the city of Houston to recover amounts deducted from payments that they received upon termination of employment. The trial court denied the city’s jurisdictional plea asserting governmental immunity, and the 14th Court of Appeals affirmed. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. According to the opinion by the Texas Supreme Court, the 14th Court rejected the city’s jurisdictional arguments on two grounds. First, the 14th Court held that general “sue and be sued” language in the city’s charter and “plead and be impleaded” language in Texas Local Government Code �51.075 waived the city’s immunity from suit. Ten months later, however, the Texas Supreme Court held otherwise in 2006′s Tooke v. City of Mexia, 197 S.W.3d 325, and City of Houston v. Jones, 197 S.W.3d 391. Second, the 14th Court held that the city lacked immunity from the firefighters’ request for declaratory relief. But the Texas Supreme Court found that the firefighters mischaracterized their suit as a declaratory-judgment claim when in fact it was a suit for money damages under a contract. The only injury alleged by the retired firefighters, the court stated, has already occurred, leaving them with only one plausible remedy: an award of money damages. As the firefighters asserted no right to payments from the city in the future, the court stated that they lacked standing to seek a statutory interpretation on behalf of those currently employed. The 14th Court, the Texas Supreme Court noted, found it significant that the trial court expressly reserved any determination of money damages for a latter date. But governmental immunity, the court noted, does not spring into existence when a damages award is finally made. Rather, it shields governments from the costs of any litigation leading up to that goal. During the pendency of the appeal at issue, the Legislature enacted Texas Local Government Code ��271.151-.160, waiving immunity from suit for certain claims against cities and other governmental entities. The firefighters asserted that their claims fell within these provisions. The court remanded the firefighters’ claim to the trial court to reconsider whether ��271.151-.160 applied. OPINION:Per curiam.

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