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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals divesting the Petitioners of an interest in property they inherited from their mother, holding that the estoppel by deed doctrine did not apply in this case and that Petitioners were entitled to retain the interest. At issue was whether the estoppel by deed doctrine or the Court's opinion in Duhig v. Peavy-Moore Lumber Co., 144 S.W.2d 878 (Tex. 1940), applied to prevent Petitioners from asserting title to the interest they inherited from their mother when Petitioners' father previously purported to sell that interest to Respondents. The trial court ruled in favor of Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed and rendered judgment for Respondents based on estoppel by deed and the Court's decision in Duhig. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Petitioners claimed their interest from their mother, an independent source predating the deed at issue, neither estoppel by deed nor the decision in Duhig applied to divest Petitioners of that interest. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether damages were appropriate for Respondents' breach of warranty claim. View "Trial v. Dragon" on Justia Law

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In this appeal of a $1.4 million sanction levied to compensate Respondents, the prevailing parties, for their attorney's fees in defending against a frivolous lawsuit, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment affirming the sanctions award and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the standard for fee-shifting awards in Cf. Rohrmoos Venture v. UTSW DVA Healthcare, LLP, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex.2019), likewise applies to fee-shifting sanctions. In the first appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that Petitioner's pleadings were groundless and sanctionable and remanded for the trial court to reassess its award of attorney's fees. On remand, the trial court reassessed the same $1.4 million sanction originally granted for attorney's fees. On appeal, Petitioner argued that Respondents' affidavits were insufficient to prove that the $1.4 million sanction was a reasonable and necessary attorney's fee. In response, Respondents argued that a different standard of proof applies for attorney's fees awarded as sanctions because the purpose of sanctions is to punish violators and deter misconduct. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that all fee-shifting situations require reasonableness and that conclusory affidavits containing mere generalities about the fees for working on Petitioner's frivolous claims are legally insufficient to justify the sanction awarded in this case. View "Nath v. Texas Children's Hospital" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Appellant's petition for writ of mandamus where, while an interlocutory Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) appeal was pending, the court of appeals granted Appellees' motion to lift a statutory stay for a limited purpose, holding the the court of appeals' order violated the statutory stay and that the relator had no adequate remedy by appeal. During certain interlocutory appeals, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 51.014(b), stays the commencement of a trial pending resolution of the appeal. For a subset of these interlocutory appeals, including appeals from the denial of a motion to dismiss under the TCPA, the statute also stays all other trial court proceedings pending resolution of that appeal. While an interlocutory TCPA appeal was pending, the court of appeals granted a motion to lift the statutory stay for the limited purpose of allowing the trial court to conduct a hearing on Appellees' request for temporary injunction and motion for contempt. Appellant filed a petition for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the mandamus petition, holding that the court of appeals abused its discretion by authorizing the trial court to conduct further trial court proceedings in violation of the legislatively mandated stay of "all other proceedings in the trial court." View "In re Geomet Recycling LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In this wrongful death case arising from the deaths of two motorists whose vehicle struck an unbarricaded dirt mound completely blocking an unlit country road the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing the suit for want of jurisdiction, holding that Defendant, the City of Killeen, had actual notice as required by Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 101.101(c) of the Tort Claims Act. The decedents' relatives brought this suit alleging that the dirt mount was a "special defect" on the City's premises. The relative conceded that formal notice under section 101.101(a) was lacking but argued that the City had actual notice under section 101.101(c). The trial court denied the City's plea to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed the case, holding that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish that the City had subjective awareness of its fault in producing or contributing to the decedents' injuries. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the facts conclusively established that the City knew its investigators had concluded that the condition of a road under its putative jurisdiction contributed to the deaths of two motorists, and therefore, the City had actual notice of a claim within the meaning of section 101.101(c). View "Worsdale v. City of Killeen, Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Defendants' engagement of the judicial process implied that they intended to waive the requirements of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 150.002, which requires that a sworn certificate of merit accompany any lawsuit complaining about a licensed professional engineer's services, and remanded this case for further proceedings. Defendants were professional engineers who were sued by Plaintiffs alleging contract and tort claims. Plaintiff never filed a certificate of merit in this lawsuit. Defendants, however, did not seek dismissal until the eve of trial - 1,219 days after suit was filed. The trial court granted Defendants' motion and dismissed Plaintiffs' lawsuit with prejudice. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Defendants impliedly waived section 150.002's requirements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants waived the statutory right to dismissal by waiving the certificate of merit requirement through their invocation of the judicial process. View "LaLonde v. Gosnell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted two questions of Texas law certified to it from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concerning the damages and attorney's fees available under the Texas Sales Representative Act, chapter 54 of the Business and Commerce Code, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 54.001-.006. The Court answered (1) the time for determining the existence and amount of "unpaid commission due" under section 54.001(1) is the time of the jury or trial court determines the liability the defendant, whether at trial or through another dispositive trial-court process such as summary judgment; and (2) a plaintiff may recover attorney's fees and costs under section 54.004(2) even if the plaintiff does not receive treble damages if the fact-finder determines that the fees and costs were reasonably incurred under the circumstances. View "JCB, Inc. v. Horsburgh & Scott Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment against Plaintiff on his suit seeking damages for an injury he allegedly sustained during his incarceration in the county jail, holding that Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.20 and Tex. Gov't Code 497.096, two statutes that generally protect governmental actors and entities from liability for their own negligence in connection with certain inmate activities, applied to the inmate's claims. Plaintiff filed this suit against Tarrant County alleging that he was injured after a defective chair collapsed during his treatment for diabetes. The trial court granted summary judgment for the County. The appellate court reversed, concluding that the statutes' liability standard of conscious indifference did not apply to at least some of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statutes applied to Plaintiff's claims to bar the County's liability and that Plaintiff failed to raise a material fact issue under the statutes' heightened liability standard. View "Tarrant County, Texas v. Bonner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court awarding specific performance to Pathfinder Oil & Gas, Inc., which claimed a twenty-five percent working interest in certain mineral leases under a letter agreement that Great Western Drilling Ltd. claimed was unenforceable, holding that Pathfinder was entitled to specific performance. On the day before trial, the parties stipules that only certain issues would be submitted to the jury and that favorable jury findings would entitle Pathfinder to specific performance instead of money damages. The jury charge included only the specifically enumerated jury issues, and the jury answered those issues in favor of Pathfinder. The trial court awarded specific performance as provided by the parties' agreement. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment, holding that specific performance was unavailable without a jury finding that Pathfinder was "ready, willing, and able" to perform its obligations under the contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, through the stipulation, Great Western waived the right to insist on any other fact findings that might otherwise have been required to entitle Pathfinder to specific performance. View "Pathfinder Oil & Gas, Inc. v. Great Western Drilling, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this case in which an off-duty law enforcement officer fatally shot a suspect during the course of an attempted arrest outside his primary jurisdiction, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of the officer's motion to dismiss, holding that the action was an "official capacity" suit that must be dismissed under the Texas Tort Claims Act. Plaintiffs sued the officer that killed their son in his individual capacity for wrongful death. The trial court denied the officer's motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that, as a matter of law, the officer could not have been doing his job as a peace officer because a peace officer operating extraterritorially would not be obligated to make arrest under the circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a licensed peace officer acting under the warrantless-arrest provision in Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 14.03(g)(2) is within the general scope of the officer's employment for purposes of Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 101.01(f); and (2) the officer in this case was sued in his official capacity and was therefore entitled to be dismissed. View "Garza v. Harrison" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this guardianship proceeding, the Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to disqualify counsel for the guardianship applicant due to a purported conflict of interest. Jamie Rogers, represented by Alfred Allen, filed an application for temporary guardianship of Verna Thetford's person and a management trust for her estate. Verna moved to disqualify Allen as Jamie's counsel, asserting that Allen had represented Verna and that she objected to his representation of Jamie in violation of his fiduciary duties to her. The trial court denied the motion to disqualify and appointed Jamie as temporary guardian for Verna. Verna argued before the Supreme Court that the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct required that Allen be disqualified. The Supreme Court held (1) the Rules permit such representation in limited circumstances and that a trial court's decision regarding disqualification, based on a careful, thorough consideration of the evidence, is entitled to great deference by an appellate court; and (2) there was no reason to disturb the trial court's discretion in this case. View "In re Thetford" on Justia Law