Sexual Lawsuit Against Jerry Jones to Continue

The Court of Appeals of Texas has reversed and remanded a trial court’s decision that dismissed with prejudice the claims against Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd. (DCFC), in a case filed by a plaintiff identified as J.G. This decision allows the plaintiff to continue her legal battle against Jones and the DCFC, marking a significant development in the case.

J.G., initially filing under the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleged that in September 2018, Jones forcibly kissed her and grabbed her without her consent. She further claimed that the DCFC was aware or should have been aware of Jones’s misconduct. J.G. filed her original petition against the defendants in September 2020, asserting claims for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and gross negligence. The defendants filed special exceptions, which led to the trial court dismissing J.G.’s claims.

What Are Special Exceptions Under Texas Law?

Under Texas law, special exceptions are a procedural tool used by a party, typically a defendant, to challenge the sufficiency or clarity of an opposing party’s pleadings. Special exceptions are designed to ensure that the pleadings provide fair notice of the claims being asserted, allowing the parties to adequately prepare for trial. They are meant to address issues such as ambiguity, vagueness, or failure to state a cause of action in the pleadings.

When a defendant files special exceptions, they are essentially asking the court to require the plaintiff to clarify or correct their pleadings. The court then reviews the pleadings to determine if the plaintiff’s allegations are indeed deficient or unclear. If the court finds that the pleadings are insufficient, it may grant the special exceptions and order the plaintiff to amend their pleadings to address the identified issues.

Remember, we are not talking about the merit of this woman’s claim.  Instead, they focus on the form and content of the pleadings, ensuring that they meet the necessary standards of clarity and sufficiency. This allows the parties to better understand the nature of the claims being asserted and to prepare their arguments accordingly.  When a judge dismisses a lawsuit over special exceptions, questions will arise over whether the judge is elevating the legal technicalities over substance and, in this case, whether there is different justice for rich and powerful white men. The appellate court did not address the latter issue but it did look a the former.

Court’s Holding

The court examined the sufficiency of a petition under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 79. Texas law requires that the parties’ names and provide adequate notice of the factual basis for the claim to allow the opposing party to prepare a defense.  And this is only fair, right?  To evaluate sufficiency, Texas courts assess whether the pleading allows the opposing party to understand the nature of the controversy, the basic issues, and the relevant evidence.

The court also addressed the use of special exceptions to challenge the adequacy of a petition. Special exceptions compel clarification of pleadings when they lack specificity or fail to plead a cause of action. The court emphasized that if a trial court grants special exceptions, the pleader may either amend the petition to cure the defect or test the decision on appeal.

In this particular case, the appellant argued that the trial court erred in dismissing her claims after she made a good faith attempt to amend her petition and the appellees did not file further special exceptions. The appellees, however, contended that the appellant waived error, and even if she preserved error, she did not make a good faith attempt to amend.

The court found that the woman did reserve the argument by raising it in various proceedings. Additionally, the court noted that the appellant’s second amended petition was a good faith attempt to comply with the special exceptions order. While Jones’ lawyers claimed that the plaintiff did not act in good faith by failing to include certain information such as her real name or portions of her Social Security or driver’s license number, the court concluded that the trial court’s special exceptions order did not expressly require such information. The court further stated that the appellant’s failure to challenge the ruling on the special exceptions was not inconsistent with her position that the trial court erred in dismissing her claims.

The court emphasized that a trial court may not dismiss a plaintiff’s case for pleading defects unless an opportunity is first afforded to amend and cure the defect. Therefore, the court concluded that because the appellant made a good faith attempt to amend her pleadings in response to the court’s special exceptions order and no further special exceptions were made, the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the appellant’s claims. As a result, the court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

Analysis of J.G. v. Jones

Let’s examine the key points raised by the appellate court and the legal reasoning behind the decision to reverse and remand the trial court’s dismissal of J.G.’s claims.

  1. Special Exceptions: The trial court had dismissed J.G.’s claims based on special exceptions filed by the defendants. Special exceptions are typically filed when a defendant believes that the plaintiff’s pleadings are unclear or fail to state a cause of action. In this case, the defendants claimed that J.G.’s use of a pseudonym and failure to provide specific details about the alleged incident, such as the exact location and date, were grounds for dismissal.

The appellate court, however, found that special exceptions were not the appropriate vehicle to challenge the failure to provide a driver’s license and Social Security numbers. The court emphasized that special exceptions should be reserved for situations where a plaintiff’s pleadings lack clarity or do not state a cause of action, not for procedural deficiencies. This distinction is crucial, as it underscores the importance of focusing on the substance of a claim rather than technicalities in the legal process.

  1. Good Faith Attempt to Amend Petition: The Court of Appeals noted that J.G. had made a good faith attempt to amend her petition to address the issues raised by the defendants. She had filed multiple amended petitions, providing more details about the alleged incident, such as the date and the specific location within AT&T Stadium. By doing so, J.G. demonstrated her willingness to comply with the trial court’s order and address the defendants’ concerns.

The appellate court found that the trial court erred in dismissing J.G.’s claims after she had made a good faith attempt to amend her petition and no further special exceptions were made. The court’s decision highlights the importance of allowing plaintiffs the opportunity to correct any perceived deficiencies in their pleadings before dismissing their claims outright.

  1. Dismissal with Prejudice: The trial court’s decision to dismiss J.G.’s claims with prejudice meant that she would be permanently barred from re-filing her case against the defendants. This is a severe consequence, right?  Again, talking about form over substance and not giving a possible victim a chance to seek justice for their grievances.

The appellate court’s decision to reverse and remand the dismissal with prejudice underscores the importance of ensuring that plaintiffs are afforded a fair opportunity to present their case. Dismissing a claim with prejudice should be reserved for instances where a plaintiff’s conduct is egregious or where it is clear that a plaintiff has no valid claim.

In conclusion, the Court of Appeals’ opinion in this case serves as a reminder of the importance of focusing on the substance of a claim rather than technicalities in the legal process. The court’s decision to reverse and remand the trial court’s dismissal of J.G.’s claims demonstrates the appellate court’s commitment to ensuring that plaintiffs are afforded a fair opportunity to present their case and seek justice.

Not the First Allegations Against Jones

Let’s be honest.  We are probably not writing about this case if is was Jamie Jones the plumber.  Jerry Jones is a big name in football. He has also faced multiple allegations of misconduct in the past. In 2014, a woman filed a lawsuit against Jones, claiming that he sexually assaulted her in 2009. The case was ultimately dismissed in 2015 after the court found that Weckerly had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support her allegations.

Additionally, in 2018, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader named Erica Wilkins filed a lawsuit against the DCFC, alleging that she and other cheerleaders were not paid fairly for their work and were subject to a hostile work environment. The lawsuit cited a specific incident where Jones allegedly touched her inappropriately during a team photo session. There is also all of that craziness of the daughter he supported and denied.

Did he do these things?  Who knows? It is easy to prejudge and hard to know without knowing the evidence.   You have your own opinion on whether he “likely” did what he is accused of based on your own world view and expereiences.  But we cannot pretend these allegations happen to every owner or a sports team, either.


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