Haynes and Boone in Law360: Exxon Says Free Speech Right Nixes Worker's Defamation Suit

10/23/2014

ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. on Wednesday asked a Texas appellate court to throw out a fired employee’s defamation suit under a state free speech law, arguing that an internal conversation between the man’s supervisors was protected speech. 

The Exxon unit says a trial judge wrongly declined its request for early dismissal of a case brought by Travis Coleman, a terminal technician responsible for maintenance, offloading shipments from trucks and recording the storage volumes of petroleum tanks. Coleman was fired after about two years on the job for failing to check the level of a tank and instead copying the volume from the day before, and he sued Exxon and his two supervisors for defamation, civil conspiracy, tortious interference and business disparagement based on statements the supervisors made internally about his failure to check the tank that day. 

During oral argument before the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas, Exxon argued that the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law enacted in 2011 to curb strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP suits, is written broadly enough to require dismissal of Coleman’s case. Arguing for Exxon, Jason Bloom of Haynes and Boone, LLP said the statute applies because the claims are based on what he calls the supervisors’ constitutionally protected statements under the right of free association and free speech...

Exxon is represented by Nina Cortell, Bloom and Alicia Calzada of Haynes and Boone.

Excerpted from Law360, October 23, 2014. To view full article, click here (subscription required).

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