Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Certain minority shareholders filed suit in a Texas court alleging dilution of equity interests. Defendants responded by invoking a forum-selection clause designating Delaware as the proper forum for disputes arising out of a shareholders agreement. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the forum-selection clause did not control because the shareholders’ extracontractual claims did not allege noncompliance or interference with any rights or obligations derived from the shareholders agreement. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the shareholders’ claims in part, holding (1) the shareholders’ statutory and common-law tort claims evidence a “dispute arising out of” the shareholders agreement; and (2) the shareholders’ noncontractual claims fell within the forum-selection clause’s scope. View "Pinto Technology Ventures, LP v. Sheldon" on Justia Law

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Galveston County Commissioners Court may set a salary range for a county judicial employee while letting Galveston County district judges decide if compensation within that range is reasonable. While the judicial branch may direct the Commissioners Court to set a new range, it cannot dictate a specific salary outside that range. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in this long-running dispute over who has the authority to set the compensation of a county judicial employee, holding that, in this case, the trial court lacked the authority to require a county judge to reinstate a county judicial employee at a specific salary, thus encroaching on the county’s legislative branch - the Commissioners Court. View "Honorable Mark Henry v. Honorable Lonnie Cox" on Justia Law

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Respondent was a party to an oil and gas lease that restricted its use of the surface estate and required it to drill from off-site locations when feasible. Briscoe Ranch, Inc. owed an adjacent surface estate and agreed that Respondent could use horizontal drilling to drill from the surface of the Ranch in order to produce minerals from Respondent’s lease. The lessee of the minerals underlying the Ranch (Petitioner) was not a party to the agreement and sought to enjoin Respondent from drilling on the Ranch and asserted claims for both trespass and tortious interference with a contract. Petitioner claimed that its consent was necessary before Respondent could drill through the Ranch’s subsurface covered by its mineral lease. The district court dismissed the claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the loss of minerals Petitioner will suffer by a well being drilled through its mineral estate is not a sufficient injury to support a claim for trespass; and (2) Respondent’s drilling plans did not tortiously interfere with Petitioner’s contractual lease rights. View "Lightning Oil Co. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, energy companies, owned four natural gas compressor stations and a metering station outside the town of Dish. In 2011, the town and eighteen of its residents sued the energy companies, alleging trespass and nuisance energies. However, as early as 2006, residents first complained about the noise and odor emanating from these facilities. The trial court entered summary judgment for the energy companies on various grounds, including limitations. The court of appeals reversed the trial court on limitations. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and reinstated the trial court’s take-nothing judgment, holding that the two-year statute of limitations barred the residents’ claims. View "Town of Dish v. Atmos Energy Corp." on Justia Law
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At issue was whether a newly-elected district court judge or the former judge he or she replaced may file findings of fact following a bench trial over which the former judge presided before his or her term expired. The court of appeals concluded that neither judge could file the findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals properly found that the new judge could not file the findings because she lacked the authority to file them; but (2) the court of appeal erred by failing to direct the new judge to request that the former judge file the findings because the former judge was the only judge with the power to file findings, even after he left the bench. View "Ad Villarai, LLC v. Pak" on Justia Law
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The Supreme Court held that several members of the Harris County Appraisal Review Board were presently or formerly employed by the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) under provisions of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (TUCA) such that when their workload was reduced or their terms of service ended, they became eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) determined that the claimants were entitled to unemployment compensation. The district court set the TWC’s decisions aside. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the TWC did not arbitrarily or unreasonably ignore its own regulation; (2) the Tax Code does not prohibit or prevent a Board member from being an employee of HCAD for TUCA purposes; and (3) there was substantial evidence to support the TWC’s determination that the claimants were entitled to unemployment compensation. View "Harris County Appraisal District v. Texas Workforce Commission" on Justia Law

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Paul Green, a former bus monitor for Dallas County Schools (DCS), was terminated because he admitted to “urinating on [himself] and in a water bottle while onboard [a] school bus[.]” Green filed this lawsuit, alleging that DCS terminated his employment because he was disabled. During trial, the jury heard testimony about Green’s heart condition and the drug he was taking that purportedly caused urinary incontinence. The trial court rendered judgment for Green. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that there was no evidence that DCS fired Green “because of” his disability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by treating Green’s heart condition as his only disability; and (2) the evidence supported a finding that Green was terminated because of a different disability - urinary incontinence. View "Green v. Dallas County Schools" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff who was not a party to a written contract was not permitted to enforce the agreement as a third-party beneficiary. DTSG, Ltd. filed suit against First Bank. Richard Brumitt intervened as an additional plaintiff, alleging that he was a third-party-creditor beneficiary of an agreement entered into by DTSG and First Bank. The jury found First Bank liable to both DTSG and Brumitt for breach of contract and for negligent and grossly negligent misrepresentation. The trial court entered judgment based on the jury’s verdict. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, holding (1) the agreement between DTSG and First Bank was unambiguous and did not make Brumitt a third-party beneficiary; and (2) the trial court erred by submitting that issue to the jury and by instructing the jury that it could consider extrinsic evidence to add a third-party-beneficiary term to the unambiguous written agreement. The court remanded the case for further consideration of Brumitt’s claims alleging negligent and grossly negligent misrepresentations. View "First Bank v. Brumitt" on Justia Law
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Waiver of a nonwaiver provision cannot be anchored in the same conduct the parties specifically agreed would not give rise to a waiver of contract rights. The long-term tenant in this forcible-detainer action frequently defaulted on the lease’s rental payment terms. The commercial landlord, however, regularly accepted, without protest, the tenant’s rental payments when tendered. A contractual nonwaiver provision provided that the landlord acceptance of rent past due “shall not be a waiver and shall not estop Landlord from enforcing that provision or any other provision of [the] lease in the future[.]” In this forcible-detainer action, the landlord sought to oust the tenant, claiming a superior right of immediate possession under a lease-extension option. The tenant, in turn, asserted that the landlord’s conduct in accepting late rental payments waived the contractual nonwaiver clause. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment rejecting the landlord’s forcible detainer action and rendered judgment in the landlord’s favor because the landlord did not act inconsistently with the contract’s express terms and because the tenant failed to identify any evidence supporting an equitable-estoppel bar to eviction. View "Shields Limited Partnership v. Bradeberry" on Justia Law

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At issue in this family law dispute was whether a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) entered into the parties after nearly two years of divorce proceedings partitioned a discretionary employee bonus Husband received nine months after the divorce decree was entered. Husband argued that the bonus constituted future income and earnings that were partitioned to him under the MSA. Wife argued that part of the bonus was earned during the marriage and constituted undivided community property. The trial court granted summary judgment for Husband. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the MSA partitioned the bonus, and therefore, the trial court properly granted summary judgment for Husband. View "Loya v. Loya" on Justia Law
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