Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals dismissing the appeal in this bill-of-review proceeding for want of jurisdiction, holding that the court of appeals erred in ruling that the trial court's order dismissing the bill-of-review petition was interlocutory.The court of appeals held that the trial court order dismissing the bill-of-review petition was not final because the trial court failed to include decree-like language adjudicating and disposing of the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the order was final where it (1) disposed of all claims and parties; (2) stated that it was a "final order"; and (3) declared that the legal effect of granting the motions to dismiss was the dismissal of the bill of review filed in the instant case. View "In re Guardianship of Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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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 Defendants in this trespass-to-try-title suit between the lessees of adjacent mineral estates, holding that the court of appeals erred.In its complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants drilled wells either on Plaintiff's leasehold or closer to the lease line than allowed by Railroad Commission rules. Defendants argued in response that Plaintiff ratified an agreed boundary line, foreclosing Plaintiff's trespass claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a boundary stipulation between the fee owners of the two mineral estates, which Plaintiff accepted, was void and could not be ratified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the boundary stipulation was valid and that Defendants conclusively established their ratification defense. View "Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief and directed the Austin City Council to revise the ballot language for a proposed ordinance that would establish minimum standards for the Austin Police Department "to enhance public safety and police oversight, transparency, and accountability," holding that Relator was entitled to relief, in part.The City Council chose to place the proposed ordinance before the voters for approval at the next general election. Rather than use the caption set for in the petition as the ballot language, the City Council approved its own description of the ordinance to be used and the ballot using language that differed materially from the caption in the petition. Relator brought this proceeding challenging the chosen ballot language. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding (1) the City correctly determined that the caption's omission of the ordinance's financial impact violated state law, requiring modification; but (2) the Austin City Charter forbade the remainder of the City's revisions to the petitioned caption. View "In re Petricek" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Petitioner's petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the district court to rescind a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the district court prohibiting the Governor and the Speaker of the House (Defendants) from compelling the attendance of members of the Texas House of Representatives (Plaintiffs), holding that the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel the attendance of absent members.Plaintiffs fled the state on July 12, 2021 in order to deny the House a quorum, thus preventing the legislature, in special session, from enacting voting legislation they opposed. Plaintiffs fled the state to escape the jurisdiction of the House, whose rules provide that absent members may be arrested and their attendance secured and retained. Plaintiffs then brought this action seeking an injunction prohibiting their arrest. The district court granted a TRO prohibiting Defendants from compelling Plaintiffs' attendance by arrest or restraint. The Supreme Court directed the district court to rescind the TRO, holding that the district court abused its discretion by granting the TRO. View "In re Abbott" on Justia Law

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In this matter concerning the general appropriations bill for the next biennium beginning September 1, 2021 the Supreme Court denied Relators' request for a writ of mandamus asserting that the Governor's veto of the Legislature's appropriation for its own operations threatened the Legislature's ability to operate and therefore violated the constitutional separation of powers, holding that this Court declines to settle a dispute between coequal branches of the government.The day before the eighty-seventh Legislature adjourned, Democratic members of the House of Representatives prevented passage of pending legislation that they had opposed by leaving the chamber. When the general appropriations bill was presented to the Governor several days later, the Governor vetoed the Legislature's appropriation for its own operations because "[f]unding should not be provided for those who quit their jobs early." In this mandamus proceeding, Relators - the House Democratic Caucus and the majority of Democratic House members - argued that the veto was an attempt to abolish the Legislature in violation of separation of powers principles. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that this dispute was one between the members of one branch rather than one between the branches, and where the Governor has made funding for continued legislative operations through the end of September, relief in mandamus was not appropriate. View "In re Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC's petition for writ of mandamus in this negligence action, holding that the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) did not have exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate issues of duty and breach that underlay Plaintiffs' claims.A good Samaritan was electrocuted in an attempt to help the victims of a wreck that downed a CenterPoint power line. The man's family and estate brought wrongful-death and survival claims against CenterPoint, alleging that CenterPoint had a duty to design, construct, operate, and maintain its electricity distribution system to de-energize portions of the distribution lines promptly when they experience faults. CenterPoint filed a plea to the jurisdiction, contending that the PUC's exclusive jurisdiction over an electric utility's rates, services, and operations extends to adjudicating whether its line-protection measures were lawful and complied with industry standards. The probate court denied CenterPoint's plea to the jurisdiction, after which CenterPoint filed a petition for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the PUC did not have exclusive jurisdiction over any issues underlying this common-law negligence dispute. View "In re Centerpoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit regarding whether Amazon.com is a "seller" under Texas law when it does not hold title to third-party products sold on its website but controls the process of transaction and delivery, holding that Amazon is not a "seller" of third-party products under Texas law.At issue was whether third-party e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Alibaba are strictly liable for defective products manufactured and owned by third parties. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding (1) under the Legislature's definition of "seller" in Chapter 82 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, when the ultimate consumer obtains a defective product through an ordinary sale, the potentially liable sellers are limited to those who relinquished title to the product at some point in the distribution chain; and (2) because the product in this case was sold on Amazon's website by a third party and Amazon did not hold or relinquish title, Amazon was not a seller even though it controlled the process of the transaction and the delivery of the product. View "Amazon.com v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied in part and conditionally granted in part the petition for mandamus relief filed by Facebook, Inc. directing the dismissal of three lawsuits brought by three plaintiffs alleging that they were victims of sex trafficking who became entangled with their abusers through Facebook, holding that certain claims may proceed but that the remaining claims must be dismissed.Plaintiffs alleged claims claims for negligence, negligent undertaking, gross negligence, and products liability based on Facebook’s alleged failure to warn of or prevent sex trafficking on its internet platforms. Plaintiffs also asserted claims under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 98.002, which creates a civil cause of action against those who intentionally or knowingly benefit from participation in a sex-trafficking venture. Facebook moved to dismiss all claims as barred by the federal Communications Decency Act, 47 US.C. 230(e)(3). After the motions were denied, Facebook sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court granted relief in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs' claims for negligence, gross negligence, negligent undertaking, and products liability must be dismissed; and (2) Plaintiffs' claims under section 98.002 may proceed. View "In re Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this termination of parental rights action the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals rejecting Mother's ineffective assistance of counsel claim, holding that Mother's ineffective assistance claim failed under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).The State sought termination of Mother's parental rights to her child. The trial court found that Mother was indigent and appointed counsel to represent her. After the jury found that grounds existed for termination and that termination was in the child's best interest Mother's retained counsel filed a notice of appeal. Thereafter, the retained counsel was suspended from the practice of law. The trial court then appointed Mother's appellate counsel. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Mother could not raise an ineffective assistance of counsel challenge because her counsel was retained rather than appointed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parents in government-initiated suits to terminate the parent-child relationship who retain counsel of their choosing may also challenge their counsel's performance by asserting an ineffective assistance claim; but (2) Mother's ineffective assistance claim failed under Strickland. View "In re Interest of D.T." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief in this action considering whether an electric utility may compel a plaintiff who alleges a common law personal injury claim to appear before the Public Utility Commission before appearing in court, holding that the Commission may not do so unless the claim complains about the utility's rates or its provision of electrical service.This was a personal injury claim against a utility arising under duties at common law and consumer protection statutes. Plaintiff alleged well-settled elements of a negligence claim, but his allegations did not rely on a utility acting in its regulated capacity, nor on a disruption of or failure to provide electrical service. At issue was whether the action was a regulatory action within the auspices of the Commission. The Supreme Court denied the utility's petition for writ of mandamus asking the trial court to abate the case to require Plaintiff to exhaust his administrative remedies before the Commission, holding that this action was not a regulatory action within the auspices of the Commission. View "In re Oncor Electric Delivery Co., LLC" on Justia Law