Sixth Court of Appeals Dismisses Breach of Contract Claims Brought Against Jackson Walker Client Heritage Constructors

September 8, 2020 | Client Results



Jackson Walker partners John Jansonius and David Schlottman secured a victory for Heritage Constructors, Inc., a general contractor specializing in water and wastewater treatment plants, in an appeal to the Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana, Texas.

The breach of contract case, appealed from the 102nd District Court of Bowie County, involved an employment agreement executed in conjunction with the sale of the appellant’s stock in Heritage. The employment agreement provided for a five-year term (subject to termination provisions of the agreement) and prescribed some adverse economic consequences to the employee should he resign before end of the term.

On July 14, 2020, the Sixth Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment, concurring with Jackson Walker’s argument that the contract is unambiguous in retaining an at-will relationship. The Court further ordered that the appellant pay all costs incurred by reason of the appeal.

“The most significant point of the decision is that the Court’s rejection of the appellant’s argument that employment at-will cannot be unilateral,” John noted. “That is, contractual disincentives to resignation before the end of a contract term do not create a restriction on the employer’s right to terminate with or without cause.”

The case is Dennis Smith v. Heritage Constructors, Inc. (No. 06-19-00107-CV) (Tex. App. Jul. 14, 2020).

Meet Our Team

John JansoniusJohn V. Jansonius focuses on contract and compensation negotiations and disputes with corporate officers and managers; defense of employment discrimination claims and wrongful discharge claims; collective bargaining, representation cases, and unfair labor practice claims under the National Labor Relations Act; denial of benefits claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act; and advising on employment and labor aspects of business transactions. He has represented clients in numerous jury and non-jury trials in state and federal court and has presented oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal circuit courts of appeals. John is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

David Schlottman focuses on complex cases involving employees, the workplace, and related business disputes. He has wide-ranging experience resolving wage-and-hour issues, employee competition, theft of trade secrets, contract claims, compensation disputes, employment discrimination and retaliation, and union-related disputes. In addition to his practice, David serves on the leadership councils for both the State Bar of Texas Labor and Employment Law Section and the Labor & Employment Law Section of the Dallas Bar Association.

Meet JW

Texas born and raised more than a century ago, Jackson Walker continues to advance the world of business by helping companies of all sizes navigate today’s increasingly complex, interconnected legal landscape. With more than 400 attorneys across seven offices, we are the fourth-largest law firm in the state and have been recognized by Law360 as a “Texas Powerhouse” and an “elite law firm” that regularly provides counsel to industry-leading clients on highly complex transactions. For explore the Firm’s experience representing clients in employment litigation matters in courts and before arbitrators throughout the country, visit our Labor & Employment Litigation practice page.