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In this libel-by-implication case, a column written by Steve Blow and published by The Dallas Morning News (collectively, Petitioners) was reasonably capable of meaning that John and Mary Ann Tatum acted deceptively and that the accusation of deception was reasonably capable of defaming the Tatums. But because the accusation was an opinion, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners. The Tatum filed suit alleging libel and libel per se against Petitioners alleging that the column at issue defamed them. The trial court granted summary judgment for Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the column was “reasonably capable” of defamatory meaning and that the column was not a non-actionable opinion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the column’s accusation of deception was “reasonably capable” of injuring the Tatums’ standing in the community but that Blow’s implicit statement that the Tatum acted deceptively was an opinion and thus not actionable. View "Dallas Morning News, Inc. v. Tatum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s grant of Respondent’s petition seeking expungement for the records and files relating to the charge for which Respondent was acquitted. Respondent was arrested for two unrelated charges. Respondent pleaded guilty to one charge and was acquitted of the other. Following her acquittal, Respondent filed a petition pursuant to Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 55.01 seeking expungement of the records and files relating to the charge for which she was acquitted. In opposing the petition, the State argued that Respondent did not meet the statutory requirements because her arrest resulted in both an acquittal and a conviction. The trial court granted the petition. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 55.01(a)(1) is neither entirely arrest-based nor offense-based; and (2) partial redactions and expunctions of records are valid remedial actions. View "State v. T.S.N." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Harris County, the employer of deputy constable Kenneth Caplan, was entitled to governmental immunity on Plaintiff’s claim that the County used tangible personal property when Caplan shot Plaintiff. Caplan was off duty and used his personal firearm when he struck and injured Plaintiff. Attempting to trigger the Tort Claims Act’s limited waiver of governmental immunity, Plaintiff alleged that the County’s use of tangible personal property caused the injuries she suffered when Caplan shot her. The trial court granted the County’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the case. The court of appeals found that Plaintiff failed to establish a waiver of the County’s immunity but remanded the case to allow Plaintiff to replied and conduct more discovery. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and rendered judgment for the County, holding that Plaintiff’s allegations failed to trigger the Texas Tort Claims Act’s waiver of the County’s governmental immunity, and neither further discovery nor repleading could cure this defect. View "Harris County, Texas v. Annab" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The lower courts in this case erred by requiring a signatory to arbitrate its non-contractual claims against non-signatories. Jody James Farms, JV purchased a crop revenue coverage insurance policy from Rain & Hail, LLC through the Altman Group. The insurance policy contained an arbitration clause. Neither the Altman Group nor any of its employees signed the agreement. After Rain & Hail denied coverage for a grain sorghum crop loss suffered by Jody James and the parties arbitrated the dispute, Jody James sued the Altman Group and its agent (collectively, the Agency) for breach of fiduciary duty and deceptive trade practices. The Agency successfully moved to compel arbitration under the insurance policy. At arbitration, Jody James asserted that it had a right to proceed in court against the Agency because the Agency was a non-signatory to the arbitration agreement. The arbitrator resolved that issue and the merits of the dispute in the Agency’s favor. The trial court confirmed the award. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed because (1) Jody James and the Agency did not agree to arbitrate any matter; and (2) Jody James may not be compelled to arbitrate under agency, third-party-beneficiary, or estoppel theories. View "Jody James Farms, JV v. Altman Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot the City of Krum’s interlocutory appeal from Taylor Rice’s suit contesting the validity of a sex offender residency restrictions ordinance (SORRO) enacted by the City, holding that Rice’s claims were rendered moot during the pendency of this appeal. Rice pled guilty to sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old. Rice was required to register as a sex offender, and at the time, the City of Krum had in place a SORRO prohibiting certain registered sex offenders such as Rice from residing “within 2,000 feet of any premises where children commonly gather.” The SORRO barred Rice from living in his parents’ house. Rice sued Krum, arguing that Krum lacked the authority to pass the SORRO. Krum filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Rice lacked standing to sue. The trial court denied the plea, and Krum filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed. Krum filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court, reiterating its jurisdictional arguments. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments, holding that Rice’s claims had been rendered moot by changes in the law, and therefore the courts lacked jurisdiction over these claims. View "City of Krum, Texas v. Rice" on Justia Law

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Relator, who was designated a sexually violent predator and civilly committed pursuant to the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act, was not entitled to appointed counsel in proceedings on the State’s motion to amend his civil commitment order to conform to the Act’s 2015 amendments. The trial court denied Relator’s request for appointed counsel on the State’s motion to modify Relator’s civil commitment order. The court of appeals granted mandamus relief to Relator, ordering the trial court to vacate its orders and appoint counsel to represent Relator in further proceedings on the State’s motion to modify. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the State’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding that Relator was not entitled to appointed counsel on the State’s motion to amend his civil commitment order to conform to the amended Act, and therefore, the court of appeals abused its discretion in granting Relator mandamus relief. View "In re State of Texas" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals erred in holding that the commercial-speech exemption applied so Defendant could not seek expedited dismissal under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Defendant hired Plaintiff, which provided “virtual assistant” services to businesses, to receive and fulfill customer orders placed through Defendant’s website. Defendant later accused Plaintiff of failing to follow its instructions on how to fill those orders and over-ordering products, demanding compensation for lost profits. When Plaintiff refused to pay, Defendant published statements about the parties’ dispute on various online platforms, including a personal blog, YouTube, and social media. Plaintiff sued for defamation. Defendant moved to dismiss the suit under the TCPA. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the commercial-speech exemption applied. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the TCPA’s commercial-speech exemption did not apply because Defendant’s allegedly defamatory statements did not arise out of his sale of goods or services or his status as a seller of those goods and services. Rather, Defendant’s statements constituted protected speech warning Plaintiff’s actual or potential customers about the quality of Plaintiff’s services. View "Castleman v. Internet Money Limited" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) applied to tort claims brought by a nonclient against an attorney based in part on statements the attorney made in open court on behalf of his client, and the attorney was entitled to dismissal under the TCPA. The trial court denied Defendant-attorney’s motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that the TCPA applied to the claims against Defendant, Plaintiff made a prima facie case for each element of his claims, and Defendant failed to prove his attorney-immunity defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the TCPA applies to protect an attorney’s in-court statements on behalf of his client during a judicial proceeding; and (2) assuming without deciding that Plaintiff carried his burden to make a prima facie case as to the elements of his claims against Defendant, Defendant was nevertheless entitled to dismissal under the affirmative defense of attorney immunity. View "Youngkin v. Hines" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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At issue was a trial court order requiring Defendant-hospital to produce information regarding its reimbursement rates from private insurers and public payers for the services it provided to Plaintiff. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s charges were unreasonable and its hospital lien for the amount of its services was invalid to the extent it exceeded a reasonable and regular rate for services rendered. During discovery, the trial court ordered Defendant to produce information regarding the reimbursement rates at issue. Defendant filed a petition for writ of mandamus arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering production of the information because the reimbursement rates were irrelevant to whether its charges to Plaintiff, who was uninsured, were reasonable. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the amounts Defendant accepted as payment for services from other patients, including those covered by private insurance and government benefits, were relevant to whether the charges to Plaintiff were reasonable and were thus discoverable. View "In re North Cypress Medical Center Operating Co." on Justia Law

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At issue was the function of a clause in a real property deed that “saves and excepts” one-half of “all royalties from the production of oil, gas and/or other minerals that may be produced from the above described premises which are now owned by Grantor” when the deed does not disclose that the grantor does not own all of the royalty interests and does not except any other royalty interests from the conveyance. The trial court held that the deeds did not create a Duhig problem - where the grantor owns less than he purports to convey - by construing the clause as reserving for the grantor one-half of all royalties “which [were then] owned by Grantor.” The court of appeals determined that the clause created a Duhig problem, interpreting the clause as reserving for the grantor one-half of all royalties produced from the “above described premises which [were then] owned by Grantor.” The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) instead of reserving a one-half royalty interest for the grantors, the clause merely excepted that interest from the grant, and therefore, the deeds did not create a Duhig problem; and (2) each party with an interest in the tracts owned a one-quarter interest in the royalties produced. View "Perryman v. Spartan Texas Six Capital Partners, Ltd." on Justia Law