TDHHS v. Okoli, No. 07-0642 (Tex. Aug. 28, 2009)(per curiam)
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES v. OLIVER OKOLI; from Harris County;
1st district (01-07-00103-CV, 263 SW3d 275, 06-28-07)
Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 59.1, after granting the petition for review and
without hearing oral argument, the Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the
case to that court.
Per Curiam Opinion
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OPINION IN THE HOUSTON COURT OF APPEALS BELOW:
Texas Department of Human Services v. Okoli (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist] Jun. 28, 2007)(Taft)
(WBA, sovereign immunity, DWOJ, interlocutory appeal)
DISMISS APPEAL: Opinion by Justice Tim Taft
Before Justices Taft, Jennings and Alcala)
(01-07-00103-CV, Texas Department of Human Services v. Oliver Okoli
Appeal from 61st District Court of Harris County (Hon. Donovan)
Texas Department of Health and Human Services v. Okoli (Tex. 2009)
Oliver Okoli sued the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHS) under the
Texas Whistleblower Act, alleging that he was terminated for reporting to a program
manager that his immediate supervisor “engaged the unit in falsifying dates and
documents to avoid delinquencies in the handling of clients’ cases.”
TDHS filed a plea to the jurisdiction based on immunity from suit, claiming that the trial
court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because Okoli failed to make a good faith report of
a violation of law to an appropriate law enforcement authority. See Tex. Gov’t Code §
554.002(a). The trial court denied the plea to the jurisdiction and TDHS appealed. See
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 51.014(a)(8) (permitting appeal from an interlocutory order
that denies a plea to the jurisdiction by a governmental unit).
The court of appeals agreed with the trial court, holding that whether Okoli actually reported
the alleged violation to an appropriate law enforcement authority could not be considered a
“jurisdictional prerequisite to suit,” though it dismissed the appeal on other grounds. 263 S.
W.3d 275, 282–83; see also Tex. Gov’t Code § 554.0035.
However, in State v. Lueck, ___ S.W.3d ___, ___ (Tex. 2009), we held that “the elements
of section 554.002(a) can be considered to determine both jurisdiction and liability.”
Accordingly, whether Okoli’s report to a program manager was a good faith report of a
violation of law to an appropriate law enforcement authority is a jurisdictional question.
Therefore, without hearing oral argument, Tex. R. App. P. 59.1, and for the reasons
explained in Lueck, we reverse and remand to the court of appeals to determine whether
Okoli has alleged a violation under the Act. See Tex. Gov’t Code § 554.002(a).
OPINION DELIVERED: August 28, 2009