Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In this health care liability action, the Supreme Court conditionally granted Claimant's petition for writ of mandamus and ordered the court of appeals to vacate its order ruling that Claimant was not permitted to depose a health care provider before serving him with an expert report, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the Medical Liability Act categorically prohibited Claimant from deposing or obtaining documents from that provider. Claimant sued one health care provider, served an expert report meeting the requirements of the Act on that provider, and then sought to depose Dr. Jeffrey Sandate, another provider involved in the underlying incident and a nonparty in the action. The court of appeals ruled that Claimant may not depose Dr. Sandate before serving him with an expert report under the Act. The Supreme Court ordered the court of appeals to vacate its order, holding that the Act did not insulate Dr. Sandate from being deposed or producing documents in this case. View "In re Comanche Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit regarding what constitutes good faith under the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (TUFTA) by holding that when a transferee on inquiry notice attempts to use TUFTA's affirmative defense that it acted in good faith to shield a transfer from the statute's clawback provision it must show, at a minimum, that it investigated its suspicions diligently. Creditors may invoke TUFTA to claw back fraudulent transfers from their debtors to third-party transferees, but if the transferee proves that it acted in good faith and the transfer was for a reasonably equivalent value, it may keep the transferred asset. The Fifth Circuit asked the Supreme Court whether a transferee on inquiry notice of fraudulent intent can achieve good faith without investigating its suspicions. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that a transferee on inquiry notice of fraud cannot shield itself from TUFTA's clawback provision without diligently investigating its initial suspicions, regardless of whether a hypothetical investigation would reveal fraudulent conduct. View "Janvey v. GMAG, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights and remanding the case for a new trial, holding that Mother was not properly admonished about her rights as required by Tex. Fam. Code 263.0061. At every permanency hearing, Mother appeared without counsel but was not further admonished about her statutory right to legal representation. The trial court subsequently terminated Mother's parental rights. Mother then filed an affidavit of indigence and a notice of appeal. After a hearing, the trial court found Mother indigent and appointed counsel to represent her on appeal. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that Mother was entitled to appointed counsel because there was sufficient indication in the record that she was indigent, such that the trial court should have conducted further inquiry into her status. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in holding that the trial court was required to conduct a pre-trial inquiry into Mother's indigency status; but (2) a new termination trial was required because the trial court failed to give mandatory statutory admonishments regarding the right to appointed counsel. View "In re Interest of B.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming summary judgment, not on the merits, but based on remediable record-citation errors in Appellant's brief, holding that the record citation errors should not have been fatal to the appeal absent a reasonable opportunity to cure the defects. In this litigation involving the dissolution of Robbie Lesa Hames Horton and Kimberly Stovall's personal and business relationship, Horton appealed a severance order and three summary judgments. The court of appeals affirmed, primarily faulting Horton for citing to documents in the appendix of her appellate brief instead of providing citations to the clerk's record. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Horton was entitled to, at a minimum, a reasonable opportunity to correct the defective record citations in her appendix documents, which the court of appeals knew were actually included in the summary judgment record. View "Horton v. Stovall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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In this dispute between the Hickman Group and the Murrin Group asserting the right to control the management of Billy Bob's the Supreme Court denied the Murrin Group's petition for writ of mandamus challenging the trial court's denial of its motion to disqualify Kelly Hart & Hallman (KHH) as counsel for Billy Bob's Texas Investments (BBT) and as counsel for the Hickman Group, holding that the Murrin Group did not establish a clear abuse of discretion as to the motion to disqualify. The Murrin Group filed the underlying lawsuit against the Hickman Group asserting claims individually by the members of the Murrin Group and claims asserted derivatively on behalf of BBT. KHH was hired to represent both the Hickman Group and BBT in the litigation. The Murrin Group moved to disqualify KHH as counsel for both BBT and the Hickman Group and filed a Rule 12 motion requiring KHH to show its authority to represent BBT. The trial court denied both motions. The Murrin Group sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) the trial court properly denied the motion to disqualify; and (2) the Murrin Group did not establish the lack of an adequate remedy at law as to the Rule 12 motion. View "In re Murrin Brothers 1885, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this case examining whether the former version of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) applies to certain counterclaims alleged in a dispute over an oil and gas lease the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing all the counterclaims in this case, holding that the court of appeals properly dismissed one counterclaim but erred in dismissing the remaining counterclaims. At issue was whether each counterclaim was "based on, relates to, or is in response to" the "exercise of the right of free speech" or the "exercise of the right to petition," as defined by the governing statutory text. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003(a). The Supreme Court held (1) certain communications to third parties about an oil and gas lease allegedly involving the exercise of free speech, on which some of the counterclaims were based, were not covered by the TCPA because they did not relate to a matter of public concern under the TCPA, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in dismissing these counterclaims; and (2) the court of appeals correctly disposed of the "right to petition" counterclaim. View "Creative Oil & Gas, LLC v. Lona Hills Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this attorney malpractice case, the Supreme Court examined the reach of the Hughes tolling rule and rendered judgment dismissing the malpractice claim as untimely, holding that the malpractice claim was not tolled under Hughes, which applies when legal malpractice is committed in the prosecution or defense of a claim that results in litigation, because the legal advise at issue lacked the nexus required to come within the Hughes tolling rule. Plaintiff's malpractice suit arose from legal advice Defendant reportedly provided in the summer of 2003. Defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The trial court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Hughes tolling does not apply to legal malpractice occurring in "mere transactional work." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) legal work only incidentally related to activities undertaken to prosecute or defend a claim is not encompassed within the Hughes paradigm; (2) the legal advice Defendant provided was, at best, incidental and tangentially related to ongoinglLitigation; and (3) therefore, Hughes tolling did not apply, and plaintiff's malpractice lawsuit was untimely. View "Erickson v. Renda" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that a no-evidence motion for summary judgment is not a proper procedural vehicle to defeat jurisdiction on the ground of governmental immunity and that the Texas Open Meetings Act waives governmental immunity with respect to declaratory judgment claims, holding that the court of appeals erred in making both conclusions. Plaintiff sued the Town of Shady Shores alleging, among other things, that she was wrongfully terminated and seeking a declaratory judgment that the termination of her employment violated the Open Meetings Act and the Texas Constitution. The trial court denied the Town's traditional and no-evidence motions for summary judgment. The Town appealed, arguing that Plaintiff had not established a waiver of the Town's governmental immunity. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) a no-evidence summary judgment motion may be used to defeat jurisdiction on the basis of governmental immunity; (2) the Open Meetings Act does not waive governmental immunity with respect to declaratory judgment claims; and (3) the Open Meetings Act claims seeking injunctive and mandamus relief were sufficiently pled. View "Town of Shady Shores v. Swanson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals holding that a memorandum order modifying possession and child support final and appealable, rendering the trial court's later order void and Mother's appeal untimely, holding that the trial court's later "Order in Suit to Modify Parent-Child Relationship," and not the memorandum order, was the appealable order and that Mother's notice of appeal was timely filed. Child's parents obtained a court order establishing possession and support obligations for Child. One year later, Father moved to modify the order. The trial court issued a "memorandum" modifying some aspects of the parties' possession and support obligations and removing others. Father later moved for entry of a final order. The trial court then entered an "Order in Suit to Modify Parent-Child Relationship." Mother appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely, holding that the trial court's memorandum constituted a final order. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the memorandum order lacked "clear and unequivocal" indicia of finality, requiring an examination of the record to determine the trial court's intent; and (2) the record demonstrated that the trial court's later order was the final order. View "In re R.R.K." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court declining to compel arbitration of class claims under the parties' agreement in this case, holding that the lower courts applied the correct legal standards in declining to compel class arbitration. This arbitration dispute between homeowners and their home warranty company evolved into a putative class action complaining about releases the warranty allegedly demanded before making covered repairs. Plaintiffs demanded arbitration, asserting that Defendant was required to arbitrate the class claims under the arbitration provisions in the warranty. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the question of whether the parties agreed to class arbitration was a question of arbitrability for the court to make and that the warranty agreement did not permit class arbitration. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) arbitratibility of class claims is a gateway issue for the court unless the arbitration agreement clearly and unmistakably expresses a contrary intent; (2) an agreement to arbitrate class claims cannot be inferred from silence or ambiguity, but rather, an express contractual basis is required; and (3) the lower courts correctly determined that Defendant was not bound to arbitrate Plaintiffs' putative class claims. View "Robinson v. Home Owners Management Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law