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David M. Walsh IV in Law360: Exxon claim would allow corporations to claim protection for any internal communication

In this Law360 news coverage (paywall-protected story here), Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson, P.C., attorney David M. Walsh IV refutes arguments by Exxon attorneys who claim conversations between supervisors should be considered protected speech under the Texas Citizens Participation Act.  The employment law case is being argued before the Fifth District Court of Appeals at Dallas.

Law360 staff writer Jess Davis reports that Exxon attorneys argued that a trial judge wrongly declined their request for early dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Travis Coleman. Coleman worked as a terminal technician for Exxon, responsible for maintenance, offloading shipments from trucks and recording the storage volumes of petroleum tanks, Davis reports.

According to media accounts, Coleman’s employment was terminated after about two years on the job on claims that he allegedly failed to check the level of a tank and instead copied the volume from the day before. Coleman 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.

Attorneys for Exxon on Oct. 22 argued that the 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.
Writes Law360:

Coleman’s attorney, David M. Walsh of Chamblee Ryan Kershaw & Anderson P.C., called the argument “befuddling” that a maintenance worker in Coleman’s position could chill Exxon’s speech. He said dismissing Coleman’s suit under the [Act] would be an overly broad application of the law that would threaten to gut every private cause of action related to private speech and that would allow every corporation in America to claim protection for any internal communication.

 The full story is available here for Law360 subscribers. More Law360 coverage of Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson, P.C., is available to Law360 subscribers here.

The case, ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. et al. v. Coleman (number 05-14-00188-CV), is being heard in the Fifth Court of Appeals of the State of Texas.

Attorney: David M. Walsh, IV