by
A defendant may obtain dismissal of a suit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act alleging “a communication made in connection with a matter of public concern” even if the defendant denies making it. Plaintiffs sued Defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), claiming that Defendant exploited the tragedy of their son’s death by encouraging the criticism of their son’s obituary. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ action under the Texas Citizens Participation Act. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a defendant who denies making the communication alleged cannot invoke the Act. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) when it is clear from a plaintiff’s pleadings that the action is covered by the Act, the defendant need show no more; and (2) the communication in this case was not extreme and outrageous enough to support an action for IIED. View "Hersh v. Tatum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, the company that constructed a scaffold from which Defendant fell, claiming that Defendant improperly constructed the scaffold and failed to remedy or warn of the dangerous condition on the scaffold. After a second trial, the jury found Defendant negligent and awarded Defendant almost $2 million in past and future damages. Defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that Plaintiff’s claim was improperly submitted under a general negligence theory of recovery. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment in Defendant’s favor, holding Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant sounded in premises liability, and a general negligence submission could not support Plaintiff’s recovery in a premises liability case. View "United Scaffolding, Inc. v. Levine" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
In 2013, the Mayor of Houston directed that same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage. Plaintiffs, Houston taxpayers and voters, filed suit against the City and its Mayor challenging the Mayor’s directive authorizing expenditures and the City’s provision of benefits pursuant to that directive. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the Mayor’s directive authorizing the expenditures violated Texas’s and the City’s defense of marriage acts. The trial court granted a temporary injunction prohibiting the Mayor from furnishing benefits to persons who were married in other jurisdictions to City employees of the same sex. While Defendants’ interlocutory appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U.S. __ (2015) that states may not exclude same sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples. The court of appeals subsequently reversed the temporary injunction and remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, vacated the trial court’s orders and remanded, holding that the court’s opinion and judgment imposed greater restrictions on remand the Obergefell and this court’s precedent required. View "Pidgeon v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
The Texas Democratic Party sued King Street Patriots (Defendant) alleging noncompliance with Election Code provisions imposing restraints and obligations on “political committees” and corporations. Defendant, in turn, argued that certain statutory provision impermissibly burdened its constitutional rights. The parties agreed to sever Defendant’s facial challenges from its as-applied challenges. Following severance, the trial court found the challenged Election Code provisions facially valid. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) legislatively enacted bans on corporate political contributions are constitutional under the First Amendment; (2) the Legislature’s public policy choice to authorize a private right of action passes constitutional muster; (3) the Election Code’s campaign contribution and political contribution definitions are not unconstitutionally vague; and (4) as to Plaintiff’s challenge to the Code’s political committee definitions, that issue is premature and prudentially unripe. Specifically, adjudication of Plaintiff’s facial challenge to the political committee definitions is premature because Plaintiff is not a political committee, and therefore, Plaintiff’s as-applied challenges should be adjudicated before facial constitutionality of the political committee definitions is determined. View "King Street Patriots v. Texas Democratic Party" on Justia Law

by
In construing an unambiguous deed, the parties’ intent is paramount, and that intent is determined by conducting a careful and detailed examination of a deed in its entirety rather than applying some default rule that appears nowhere in the deed’s text. In this case, the Supreme Court construed a deed that conveyed a mineral estate and the surface above it. At issue was whether the language of the deed passed the entire burden of an outstanding non-participating royalty interest (NPRI) to the grantees or whether the NPRI proportionately burdened the grantor’s reserved interest. The trial court ruled that the deed burdened both parties with an outstanding NPRI and that the parties must share the burden of the NPRI in proportion to their respective fractional mineral interests. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the only reasonable reading of the deed in this case resulted in the parties bearing the NPRI burden in shares proportionate to their fractional interests in the minerals. View "Wenske v. Ealy" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute involving mineral interests pooled for natural gas production, lessors and other stakeholders alleged that the lessee underpaid royalties owed to them under their mineral leases and pooling agreements. The issues presented in this appeal centered on the lessee’s efforts to avoid a contractual obligation to pay royalties to the overlapping unit stakeholders for production from a zone shared by the two pooled units. The lower courts held that the agreement to pay royalties was enforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) ineffective conveyance of title does not preclude the lessee’s liability under a contract theory; (2) the lessee’s quasi-estoppel and scrivener’s error defenses to contract enforcement failed as a matter of law; and (3) the lessee was not entitled to recoup royalty payments from stakeholders in another pooled unit; (4) this court’s decision in Hooks v. Samson Lone Star, Ltd. Partnership, 457 S.W. 3d 52 (Tex. 2015) precluded the unpooling stakeholders’ claims; and (5) the court of appeals properly construed a proportionate-reduction clause to award royalties owed to the overlapping unit stakeholders in accordance with their fifty percent mineral-interest ownership. View "Samson Exploration, LLC v. T.S. Reed Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The employer under the circumstances of this case had no duty to control its employees. J.R.and Carlos worked as cashiers at a convenience store owned by Exxon Mobile Corporation. One evening, Carlos picked a fistfight with J.R. When Alfredo, J.R.’s father, entered to the store to pick up J.R., Carlos also started a fistfight with Alfredo. Alfredo was knocked down and complained he couldn’t breathe. Twenty-three days later he died from cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory failure, and renal failure. J.R. and his family (Plaintiffs) sued Exxon for wrongful death and survival damages. The jury found that Exxon’s negligent supervision of its employees, together with J.R. and Alfredo’s negligence, caused Alfredo’s death. The jury awarded Plaintiffs nearly $2 million in damages. The court of appeals remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment for Exxon, holding that an employer in a situation like the one presented in this case owes no duty to supervise its employees, and therefore, as a matter of law, Exxon was not liable to Plaintiffs. View "Pagayon v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
ConocoPhillips Co. and Alma Energy Corp. exchanged oil and gas interests under an exchange agreement in which each indemnified the other for any environmental claims related to the properties received. Alma later filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Thereafter, Noble Energy Inc. agreed to by the properties Alma had received from Conoco under the exchange agreement. After the bankruptcy proceeding concluded, an environmental contamination suit was filed against Conoco, and Noble refused to indemnify Conoco under the exchange agreement. Conoco filed suit against Noble alleging breach of the exchange agreement and seeking to recover the $63 million it paid to settle the suit. The trial court granted summary judgment for Noble. The court of appeals reversed and entered summary judgment for Conoco, concluding that the exchange agreement was an executory contract that was assumed by Alma and assigned to Noble in the bankruptcy proceeding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that under the terms of the bankruptcy court order confirming the plan of reorganization and the agreement for sale of Alma’s assets, Noble was assigned an undisclosed contractual indemnity obligation of Alma. View "Noble Energy, Inc. v. Conocophillips Co." on Justia Law

by
In this admiralty law case, a certain vessel - taken out of service, subjected to a twenty-month conversion process, and unable to engage in transportation during the entirety of the claimant’s onboard employment - was “out of navigation” as a matter of law and thus outside the Jones Act. Kelvin Gold, an employee of Helix Energy Solutions Group, reported injuries suffered aboard the HELIX 534 and sued Helix for additional maintenance-and-cure benefits, as well as actual and punitive damages. Gold claimed those remedies under the Jones Act as a “seaman” aboard a “vessel in navigation.” During the entire time Gold worked aboard the 534 the ship lacked the ability to navigate on her own due to the overhaul of her engines. The trial court granted summary judgment for Helix, concluding that the 534 was not a vessel in navigation under undergoing the overhaul. The court of appeals reversed, finding a fact question. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment, holding as a matter of law that the 534 was not in navigation and therefore that the Jones Act did not apply during the course of Gold’s employment. View "Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Gold" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law