Slapped In Texas

TPA Loses Lawsuit Against Private Citizen

“The Texas Legislature unanimously adopted one of the strongest Anti-SLAPP statutes in the nation and showed their continued support of the First Amendment.  On June 17, 2011, the Texas Citizens Participation Act (the “Texas Anti-SLAPP statute”) was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.”

“The statue allows a judge to dismiss frivolous lawsuits filed against one who speaks out about a “matter of public concern” within the first 60 days.  “Matter of public concern” is defined expansively in the statute.” (slappedintexas.com/primer/)

By Murry B. Cohen, Appellate Lawyer 

Gloria Hicks, v. Group & Pension Administrators, Inc., 13–14–00607–CV, (Tex. App. 2015). Reversing District Court and holding that a citizen’s email to school board trustees urging the board not to contract with plaintiff concerned a matter of public importance, was not commercial speech, and defendant was protected from suit by the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute.

Group & Pension Administrators Sued Private Citizen For Urging Corpus Christi ISD From Contracting with Them…………………………

BACKGROUND

In October 2012, GPA was one of four finalists to be awarded a contract to serve as the third-party administrator of Corpus Christi Independent School District’s (“CCISD”) self-funded health insurance plan.

GPA asserts that on Friday, October 26, 2012, Xavier Gonzalez, an assistant superintendent of CCISD, advised GPA representatives that GPA would be awarded the third-party administrator contract on Monday, October 29, 2012.

Hicks, a Corpus Christi resident active in the community, is a member of the board 4 of trustees for Corpus Christi Medical Center (“CCMC”).3 Hicks learned of CCISD’s decision to award the contract to GPA on Friday, October 26, 2012. That afternoon, Hicks sent the following email to six school board members and the superintendent of CCISD:

“I am on the Board of Directors for Corpus Christi Medical Center, which includes Bay Area Hospital, Doctors Regional, ER in Portland, ER in Calallen. The message that I would like to convey is that our hospitals have worked with GPA in the past and they are very difficult with all Healthcare providers. If CCISD does elect to go with GPA[,] we will be forced to bill CCISD employees. The billing difficulties are so bad we are unable to file claims and get them paid. It is a bad situation that I wanted to make you aware of. Thank you.[ 4 ]”

Late in the afternoon on Friday, October 26, assistant superintendent Gonzalez notified a GPA representative that CCISD had decided to award the contract to a different bidder.

On Monday, October 29, the school board met as scheduled and awarded the contract to a different bidder.

Murry B. Cohen – Appellate Lawyer

(Justice Murry B. Cohen leads the firm’s Texas appellate practice. Justice Cohen served for more than nineteen years on the Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas in Houston, deciding civil and criminal appeals from fourteen Texas counties.)

www.akingump.com/en/lawyers-advisors/murry-b-cohen.html

Editor’s Note: This is a case of a plan sponsor who was about to leave the world of managed care and instead embark upon a Reference Based Pricing plan, a disruptive break from the status quo. The politics of change did not work out well for the TPA.

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