The answer begins with a general denial. That is a formalistic pleading that means the defendant resists the plaintiffs’ claims, but it tells you nothing about the defendant’s actual contentions. The answer does, however, go on the assert affirmative defenses, which tell us a little more. The asserted affirmative defenses are that defendant would have treated the plaintiffs the same even if they had not blown a whistle, that defendant is immune from plaintiffs’ claims, that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, that the claims are barred by limitations, and that plaintiffs have failed to mitigate their damages. I am in no position to comment on the merits of those defenses, but they are generally the sort of defenses you would expect to see in a case of this nature.
The motion to transfer venue asks that the case be transferred from Dallas County to Collin County. Plaintiffs claim only that venue in Dallas County is permissible, not that it is mandatory. Defendant does not allege that plaintiffs are wrong in filing in Dallas County. They argue instead that venue in Collin County would be more convenient for all concerned. This is an appeal to the discretion of the judge. I have no idea what the judge will do. For those not familiar with the relevant geography, Dallas and Collin counties adjoin, and both are part of what is sometimes referred to as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The plea to the jurisdiction is the most interesting. It is based on the concept that all levels of government are immune from lawsuits unless the legislature has specifically waived that immunity. This immunity dates back to ancient England, where the king could not be sued in his own courts.
The legislature has waived immunity to whistleblower suits, but defendant asserts that a plaintiff’s failure to meet any necessary element of a whistleblower suit is a jurisdictional defect. If the court determines there is a jurisdictional defect, the court must dismiss the suit without trial. I do not know the facts of the case well enough to say whether there actually is a jurisdictional defect. I do know, however, that governmental bodies file these pleadings in every case. Just because it is filed does not mean that it is meritorious.
Now both parties have made their initial moves in the case, and the litigation can commence in earnest.
Plaintiffs included a routine request for disclosure with their petition, so presumably some time toward the end of October defendant will produce relevant potential evidence.