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In this proceeding under Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code 72.010 authorizing property owners subject to multiple taxation to petition the Supreme Court directly to determine which county is owed taxes, the Court determined that it had original jurisdiction and that taxes on Relators’ property were owed to San Patricio County rather than Nueces County. This dispute concerned shoreline boundary on Corpus Christi Bay. For a decade both Nueces County and San Patricio County have taxed the same piers, docks, and other facilities affixed to land in San Patricio County but extending out into the water in Nueces County. After the statute was enacted and signed into law in 2017, Relators filed an original petition for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court praying that the Court determine which county is authorized to tax Relators' piers. The Supreme Court held (1) this case presented a compelling reason for the Court to exercise original jurisdiction; (2) section 72.010 does not violate the Texas Constitution’s prohibition against retroactive laws; and (3) San Patricio County is owed the taxes due on Relators' piers. View "In re Occidental Chemical Corp." on Justia Law

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Having granted Petitioner’s motion for rehearing, the Supreme Court withdrew the judgment and opinion issued on June 1, 2018, holding that the contract in this case arose from a municipality’s performance of a propriety function, so governmental immunity did not apply. After the City of Jacksonville terminated James and Stacy Wasson’s (together, Wasson) leases, Wasson filed this suit alleging that the City breached the lease agreements and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The City moved for summary judgment on the grounds that governmental immunity barred Wasson’s claims. The trial court granted the motion. The court of appeals affirmed based on governmental immunity, rejecting Wasson’s argument that the governmental/proprietary dichotomy applies to breach of contract claims. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, ruling that the dichotomy applies whether a municipality commits a tort or breaches a contract. On rehearing, the Court held (1) the nature of the function the City was performing when it entered into the contract governed the analysis as to whether governmental immunity barred the breach of contract claim; and (2) the City was engaged in a propriety function when it allegedly breached the lease agreements, and therefore, governmental immunity did not bar Wasson’s claims. View "Wasson Interests, Ltd. v. City of Jacksonville, Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of settlement credits in this case, holding that the trial court erred in failing to apply the one-satisfaction rule and therefore erred in denying the nonsettling defendant the settlement credits they sought. Plaintiff sued Defendants alleging, inter alia, breach of loan note and guaranty agreements, fraud, and conspiracy. The jury awarded Plaintiff damages of $2,665,832 and attorney’s fees. In response to Plaintiff’s motion for judgment, Defendants asserted that under the one-satisfaction rule, they were entitled to offset the final judgment by the amounts the four settling defendants paid to Plaintiff. However, the trial court rendered judgment against Defendants for the full jury award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants were entitled to reduce the judgment by the total amount of the four settlements Plaintiff received and any applicable interest. View "Sky View at Las Palmas, LLC v. Mendez" on Justia Law

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In this property-tax dispute regarding ownership of tangible personal property the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals determining that Willacy County Appraisal District (WCAD) lacked authority to change the ownership determination to the appraisal roll under Tex. Prop. Tax Code 25.25(b), holding that when, as in this case, an ownership correction to the appraisal roll does not increase the amount of property taxes owed for subject property in the year of correction, an appraisal district’s chief appraiser has statutory authority to make such a correction. WCAD initially listed on the 2009 appraisal roll Sebastian Cotton & Grain Ltd. as the owner of grain inventory stored on its property. WCAD subsequently corrected the appraisal roll to reflect DeBruce Grain as the property owner but ultimately changed the 2009 appraisal roll back to again reflecting Sebastian as the grain’s owner. Sebastian protested. The Supreme Court held (1) the ownership correction was proper; (2) a Tex. Prop. Tax Code 1.111(e) agreement may be rendered voidable if its is proven that the agreement was induced by fraud; and (3) Sebastian was not entitled to attorney’s fees under Tex. Prop. Tax Code 42.29. View "Willacy County Appraisal District v. Sebastian Cotton & Grain, Ltd." on Justia Law

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At issue in this divorce case was whether the trial court properly divided the parties’ community home eighty percent to Wife and twenty percent to Husband where Husband had been convicted for the continuous sexual abuse of Wife’s daughter and where Husband used the family home to commit the abuse. The court of appeals affirmed the property division, concluding that “[t]he division should not be a punishment for the spouse at fault.” Wife appealed, arguing that the division was not just and right. A plurality of the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that where Husband was convicted of using community property to sexually abuse his stepdaughter, it was not “just and right,” as a matter of law, to award Husband an interest in the family home. View "Bradshaw v. Bradshaw" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that trial courts must expressly rule on objections in writing for error to be preserved. Plaintiffs sued Allstate Texas Lloyds and one of its adjusters (collectively, Allstate) asserting contractual and extra-contractual claims. Allstate moved for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a summary-judgment response that referred to certain pieces of summary-judgment evidence, including an affidavit, but Plaintiffs failed to attach any evidence to their response. The only evidence Plaintiffs provided was filed late. Allstate objected in writing to Plaintiffs’ summary-judgment evidence on multiple grounds. The trial court granted summary judgment for Allstate but did not specify the grounds for its judgment. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs’ only summary-judgment evidence was incompetent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) unless Allstate complained of a defect in the evidence’s substance, rather than its form, it was obligated not only to object but also to obtain a ruling on its objection; and (2) Allstate’s objections were waived in this case. View "Seim v. Allstate Texas Lloyds" on Justia Law

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Trial court orders enforcing an agreed spousal-support obligation, specifically, a wage-withholding order and an order assigning retirement benefits to enforce unpaid spousal support, were void. An Oklahoma court entered an order approving and incorporating the parties’ agreements regarding spousal-support obligations. After Husband filed for divorce in Texas, Wife filed the Oklahoma order in the Texas court. The court granted the divorce, incorporating the agreements as approved in the Oklahoma order. The court then issued various post-divorce orders to enforce Husband’s obligations. Husband appealed, challenging a qualified domestic relations order assigning Wife interests in Husband’s retirement accounts and the order dismissing his motion to vacate a wage-withholding order. The court of appeals affirmed as modified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) wage withholding is not available to support all spousal-support judgments in Texas; and (2) the trial court acted without statutory authority when it assigned additional interests in Husband’s retirement accounts to Wife for Husband’s support arrearages. View "Dalton v. Dalton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the royalty interest reserved to the grantor in a 1951 deed was fixed - or set at a specific percentage of production - rather than floating - dependent on the royalty amount in the applicable oil and gas lease. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The trial court declared that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the royalty interest was fixed. The Supreme Court reversed in light of the language and structure of the reservation at issue, holding that the deed unambiguously reserved a floating one-half interest in the royalty in all oil, gas, or other minerals produced from the conveyed property. View "U.S. Shale Energy II, LLC v. Laborde Properties, L.P." on Justia Law

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the finding of the trial court that Wife’s attempt to rescind a premarital agreement triggered a clause in the agreement under which Wife lost a $5 million payment otherwise due to her. Prior to the parties’ marriage, they entered into an “Agreement in Contemplation of Marriage” under which Husband would make a lump-sum cash payment to Wife upon the entry of a divorce decree. The Agreement also contained a “no-contest” or “forfeiture” clause, under which Wife would lose her contractual right to the lump-sum payment. After Husband filed for divorce, Wife requested rescission of the Agreement. Ultimately, the trial court concluded that Wife forfeited any cash payment under the Agreement. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that by unsuccessfully seeking rescission of the Agreement and pursuing that remedy throughout the litigation, Wife lost her contractual right to the lump-sum payment under the Agreement. View "In re Marriage of I.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law

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In this removal proceeding brought under chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code (the removal statute), the Texas Local Government Code (TCPA) applied, and the state failed to establish a prima facie case for the removal of a county official. George Best sought to remove Paul Harper from the Somervell County Hospital District Board by filing this suit under the removal statute. The county attorney appeared in this case as plaintiff on the state’s behalf, and the state adopted Best’s allegations. Harper filed a motion to dismiss under the TCPA, arguing that Best filed, and the state joined, the removal petition based in response to Harper’s exercise of the right to petition and right of free speech and that the state could not establish a prima facie case for removal. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this case was a legal action under the TCPA, but the TCPA does not apply when a government attorney brings an enforcement action in the state’s name; and (2) only one of the allegations against Harper constituted an enforcement action, and as to the allegations that were not enforcement actions, the state’s sovereign immunity did not protect it from Harper’s claim for appellate costs. View "State ex rel. Best v. Harper" on Justia Law