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At issue in this appeal from a Title IV-D associate judge’s order modifying conservatorship and child support for three children was whether the Title IV-D associate judge had authority to enter an order modifying conservatorship. The court of appeals reversed the associate judge’s order on the ground that the Title IV-D associate judge had no authority to enter an order modifying conservatorship before recent amendments to the Family Code to expressly grant Title IV-D associate judges such authority. The court of appeals also reversed on the independent ground that the associate judge erred by failing to consider the children’s father’s request to participate in the hearing remotely from prison. The Supreme Court affirmed solely on the independent ground that the associate judge failed to consider Father’s request to participate in the hearing by alternative means. The court, however, disagreed with the court of appeals’ ruling that the Title IV-D associate judge lacked authority to enter the order modifying conservatorship and child support, holding that the former version of the Texas Family Code grants Title IV-D associate judges authority to modify conservatorship when, as here, the modification relates to the establishment, enforcement, or modification of a child-support obligation. View "Office of Attorney General of Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of a magazine’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s defamation claim under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Plaintiff, a private citizen who was the subject of a magazine article about her receipt of food stamps, sued the magazine, alleging that the magazine defamed her when it falsely accused her of committing welfare fraud. The magazine moved to dismiss the suit under the TCPA. The trial court denied the motion as to the defamation claim, granted it as to the other claims asserted by Plaintiff, and denied the magazine’s request for attorney’s fees. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Plaintiff was entitled to proceed on her defamation claim and that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal of the denial of attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals improperly relied on Wikipedia as authority in its opinion; (2) the lower courts properly found that dismissal of Plaintiff’s defamation claim under the TCPA was not warranted at this stage in the proceedings; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to award the magazine attorney’s fees in light of its dismissal of other claims. View "D Magazine Partners, L.P. v. Rosenthal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the court of appeals and trial court concluding that an expert witness affidavit in this legal malpractice case was conclusory regarding causation. Plaintiff sued Defendant attorneys for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the loss of its aircraft. Defendants filed traditional and no-evidence motions for summary judgment, challenging the causation element of the legal malpractice claim and arguing that the breach of fiduciary duty claim was precluded by the anti-fracturing rule. In response to the motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff presented affidavits of two attorneys opining that Defendants’ negligence caused the forfeiture of the aircraft. The trial court ruled that the affidavits would not be considered for summary judgment purposes and granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the two affidavits were conclusory. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that one of the affidavits was not conclusory. View "Starwood Management, LLC v. Swaim" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for Petitioner auto dealer, whom Respondent sued for negligent entrustment, and reinstated summary judgment for Petitioner. When Petitioner provided William Heyden a loaner vehicle, Heyden had been drinking. Eighteen days later, when he was legally intoxicated, Heyden drove the loaner vehicle into a truck driven by Respondent. Respondent sued Petitioner for negligent entrustment. Petitioner argued that an accident that occurs eighteen days after entrustment is too attenuated to constitute legal cause. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for Petitioner. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case, determining that fact issues regarding proximate cause remained. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner established that its providing Heyden a loaner was not a proximate cause of his injuring Respondent eighteen days later. View "Allways Auto Group, Ltd. v. Walters" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Legally sufficient evidence supported the jury’s conclusion in this case that the negligence of a premature infant’s treating neonatologist, more likely than not, proximately caused the infant’s loss of vision. D.B. was born extremely premature. As a result of D.B.’s retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a retinal disorder that afflicts premature infants with low birth weights, D.B. became totally bind in her right eye, and the vision in her left eye was severely impaired. Plaintiffs, D.B.’s parents, sued D.B.’s neonatologist and his professional association, claiming that their negligence caused D.B.’s vision loss. The jury found that Defendants’ negligence caused D.B.’s injuries. The court of appeals reversed and rendered judgment that Plaintiffs take nothing, concluding that they failed to adduce any non-conclusory evidence of causation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that legally sufficient evidence supported the jury’s finding that the neonatologist’s negligence in assessing and treating D.B.’s ROP proximately caused her vision impairment. View "Bustamante v. Ponte" on Justia Law

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A defendant may obtain dismissal of a suit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act alleging “a communication made in connection with a matter of public concern” even if the defendant denies making it. Plaintiffs sued Defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), claiming that Defendant exploited the tragedy of their son’s death by encouraging the criticism of their son’s obituary. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ action under the Texas Citizens Participation Act. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a defendant who denies making the communication alleged cannot invoke the Act. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) when it is clear from a plaintiff’s pleadings that the action is covered by the Act, the defendant need show no more; and (2) the communication in this case was not extreme and outrageous enough to support an action for IIED. View "Hersh v. Tatum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, the company that constructed a scaffold from which Defendant fell, claiming that Defendant improperly constructed the scaffold and failed to remedy or warn of the dangerous condition on the scaffold. After a second trial, the jury found Defendant negligent and awarded Defendant almost $2 million in past and future damages. Defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that Plaintiff’s claim was improperly submitted under a general negligence theory of recovery. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment in Defendant’s favor, holding Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant sounded in premises liability, and a general negligence submission could not support Plaintiff’s recovery in a premises liability case. View "United Scaffolding, Inc. v. Levine" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In 2013, the Mayor of Houston directed that same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage. Plaintiffs, Houston taxpayers and voters, filed suit against the City and its Mayor challenging the Mayor’s directive authorizing expenditures and the City’s provision of benefits pursuant to that directive. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the Mayor’s directive authorizing the expenditures violated Texas’s and the City’s defense of marriage acts. The trial court granted a temporary injunction prohibiting the Mayor from furnishing benefits to persons who were married in other jurisdictions to City employees of the same sex. While Defendants’ interlocutory appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U.S. __ (2015) that states may not exclude same sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples. The court of appeals subsequently reversed the temporary injunction and remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, vacated the trial court’s orders and remanded, holding that the court’s opinion and judgment imposed greater restrictions on remand the Obergefell and this court’s precedent required. View "Pidgeon v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The Texas Democratic Party sued King Street Patriots (Defendant) alleging noncompliance with Election Code provisions imposing restraints and obligations on “political committees” and corporations. Defendant, in turn, argued that certain statutory provision impermissibly burdened its constitutional rights. The parties agreed to sever Defendant’s facial challenges from its as-applied challenges. Following severance, the trial court found the challenged Election Code provisions facially valid. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) legislatively enacted bans on corporate political contributions are constitutional under the First Amendment; (2) the Legislature’s public policy choice to authorize a private right of action passes constitutional muster; (3) the Election Code’s campaign contribution and political contribution definitions are not unconstitutionally vague; and (4) as to Plaintiff’s challenge to the Code’s political committee definitions, that issue is premature and prudentially unripe. Specifically, adjudication of Plaintiff’s facial challenge to the political committee definitions is premature because Plaintiff is not a political committee, and therefore, Plaintiff’s as-applied challenges should be adjudicated before facial constitutionality of the political committee definitions is determined. View "King Street Patriots v. Texas Democratic Party" on Justia Law

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In construing an unambiguous deed, the parties’ intent is paramount, and that intent is determined by conducting a careful and detailed examination of a deed in its entirety rather than applying some default rule that appears nowhere in the deed’s text. In this case, the Supreme Court construed a deed that conveyed a mineral estate and the surface above it. At issue was whether the language of the deed passed the entire burden of an outstanding non-participating royalty interest (NPRI) to the grantees or whether the NPRI proportionately burdened the grantor’s reserved interest. The trial court ruled that the deed burdened both parties with an outstanding NPRI and that the parties must share the burden of the NPRI in proportion to their respective fractional mineral interests. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the only reasonable reading of the deed in this case resulted in the parties bearing the NPRI burden in shares proportionate to their fractional interests in the minerals. View "Wenske v. Ealy" on Justia Law