Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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In this case involving the scope of the attorney-immunity defense, the Supreme Court held that attorney immunity applies in all adversarial contexts in which an attorney has a duty to zealously represent a client, including in a business-transactional context, but only when the claim against the attorney is based on the type of conduct attorney immunity protects.At issue was whether the attorney-immunity defense applies to a non-client's claims that are based on an attorney's conduct performed outside of the context of litigation. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's summary judgment in this case, concluding that attorney immunity does not extend beyond the litigation context and should not be extended to a business transaction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) attorney immunity provides a defense to a non-client's claims based on an attorney's conduct that constitutes the provision of legal services involving the unique office of an attorney and the conduct that the attorney engages in to fulfill the attorney's duties in representing the client within an adversarial context in which the client and the non-client do not share the same interests; and (2) attorney immunity applies to claims based on conduct the attorney performed in a non-litigation context so long as the conduct qualifies as this "kind" of conduct. View "Hayes & Boone, LLP v. NFTD, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Defendants' motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 27.001-.011, as untimely, holding that because Plaintiff's amended petition in this case asserted new legal claims, Defendants' motion to dismiss those claims was timely.In his original petition, Plaintiff asserted claims for deceptive trade practice, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended petition reasserting the same claims, adding new claims for fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraudulent concealment, and breach of contract, and alleging the same essential facts alleged in the original petition and requesting the same relief. The trial court denied Defendants' TCPA dismissal motion, concluding that the motion was untimely. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that Defendant's motion to dismiss the new claims was untimely because the amended petition asserted new legal actions and thus triggered new sixty-day period for Defendants to file a motion to dismiss those new claims. View "Monteglongo v. Abrea" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over claims of a limited partner for harm done to the partnership because he lacked standing to bring the claims individually, holding that the appeal should be reconsidered in light of Pike v. Texas EMC Management, LLC, 610 S.W.3d 763 (Tex. 2020).Plaintiff formed multiple real estate-related partnerships and then sued his partners, later adding the partnerships as plaintiffs. Defendants filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that Plaintiff individually lacked standing to bring claims against the individual individuals because the claims belonged to the partnerships. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed Plaintiff's individual claims for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Defendant lacked standing to assert his original individual claims and that the doctrine of relation back could not create jurisdiction where none existed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals' holding regarding standing was in direct conflict with Pike. View "Cooke v. Karlseng" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court that Petitioners pay $7,000 from a supersedeas bond over losing the underlying appeal and ordering Petitioners to pay $114,280 from the bond, holding that the court of appeals erred in calculating the amount.When Petitioners were ousted from land upon which their cattle grazed, they brought this action challenging the ouster. The trial court granted summary judgment in part for Respondents then, after a trial, rendered judgment that Petitioners take nothing. The trial court allowed Petitioners to suspend the judgment by posting a supersedeas bond, which meant Petitioners could keep their cattle on the leased land during the appeal. The trial court ruled that Respondent was entitled to $7,000 from the bond. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Respondent should recover $114,280 from the bond, basing its calculation on the expense Petitioners would have incurred if the judgment had not been superseded. At issue was how "loss or damage" is calculated on release of a supersedeas bond under Tex. R. App. 24.2(a)(3). The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's order, holding that the proper measure is the actual loss Respondent suffered because the judgment was superseded. View "Haedge v. Central Texas Cattlemen's Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's award of compensatory damages for Plaintiff on its defamation claim, holding that this was not a case of defamation but, rather, of business disparagement and that there was no evidence for either the award of general damages for Plaintiffs' reputation or the award of special damages connected to one of the allegedly defamatory statements.Plaintiff Valley Builders Supply, inc., sued its former business competitor, Defendant Innovative Block of South Texas, Ltd., alleging that Innovative's disparaging remarks about Valley's products contributed to its demise. Plaintiff submitted only its defamation claims to the jury, and the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor. The jury awarded general damages for Plaintiff's reputation injury and special damages for lost profits. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) disparaging the quality or condition of a business's product or service is not, standing alone, defamation per se; (2) no evidence existed to support an award of general damages for harm to Valley's reputation; and (3) the pecuniary loss for which special damages were sought were not cognizable as defamation. View "Innovative Block of South Texas, Ltd. v. Valley Builders Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case case arising out of the breakup of a limited partnership created to produce and market a new cement product the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals largely affirming the judgment of the trial court in favor of the limited partnership and a technology-supplying partner, holding that Plaintiffs failed to present legally sufficient evidence of damages and that the technology-supplying partner was not entitled to a permanent injunction for misappropriation of trade secrets.The partnership, its general partner, and the limited partner that supplied the cement-making technology sued the limited partners responsible for funding, the general manager of the partnership, and the companies that foreclosed on and purchased the partnership's assets. Defendants asserted counterclaims. The court of appeals largely affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the damage awards were not supported by legally sufficient evidence; (2) the technology-supplying partner was not entitled to a permanent injunction for misappropriation of trade secrets; and (3) the company that purchased the partnership's assets and promissory note did not prove it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its counterclaim for the partnership's failure to pay a deficiency balance on the note. View "Pike v. Texas EMC Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the amount of franchise tax owed by a taxpayer the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing in part the trial court's judgment for the taxpayer, holding that, with respect to the taxpayer's inclusion of certain costs in its "cost of goods sold" (COGS) subtraction, the calculation method accepted by the trial court was improper, and the taxpayer was not entitled to include the costs in calculating its COGS subtraction.The Comptroller concluded that Gulf Copper and Manufacturing Corporation paid an insufficient amount of franchise taxes for the 2009 year. At issue was whether Gulf Copper could exclude certain payments from its revenue under Texas Tax Code 171.1011(g)(3) and include certain costs in its COGS subtraction under Texas Tax Code 171.1012. Gulf Copper paid additional taxes and sued to recover the disputed amount. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Gulf Copper. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Comptroller incorrectly disallowed the revenue exclusion; (2) with regard to the COGS subtraction, the calculation method accepted by the trial court was improper; and (3) the taxpayer was not entitled to include costs under subsection 171.1012(i) in calculating its COGS subtraction. View "Hegar v. Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court concluding that Tex. Tax Code 171.1012 permitted a movie theater to subtract exhibition costs as cost of goods sold, holding that film exhibitions are not tangible personal property that is sold, and therefore, the theater was not entitled to include exhibition-related costs in its cost of goods sold.The Comptroller disallowed the movie theater's subtraction of exhibition costs in calculating its franchise tax liability for 2008 and 2009. The theater paid the additional franchise taxes requested by the Comptroller and sued to recover the disputed amount, arguing that its exhibition costs were property subtracted as cost of goods sold (COGS). The trial court concluded that the theater's film exhibitions were tangible personal property and thus goods for sale in the ordinary course of the theater's business under section 171.1012. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 171.1012 did not permit the movie theater to subtract is exhibition costs as COGS because no tangible personal property was transferred through the film exhibitions. View "Hegar v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the Texas Comptroller's audit of Sunstate Equipment, a heavy construction equipment renal company, on the grounds that Sunstate was not entitled to subtract certain delivery and pick-up costs as cost of goods sold (COGS) under Tex. Tax Code 171.1012, holding that Sunstate was not entitled to the subtraction it claimed under either section 171.1012(k-1) nor section 171.1012(i).After the Comptroller assessed deficiencies, penalties and interest totaling $140,495 Sunstate brought suit for a refund. The district court ordered a full refund of the amount paid, including interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Sunstate was not entitled to subtract costs under section 171.1012(k-1) and that section 171.1012(i) did not independently authorize the cost subtractions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither statutory provision authorized Sunstate to subtract its delivery and pick-up costs as COGS. View "Sunstate Equipment Co. v. Hegar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law
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In this venue dispute, the Supreme Court denied a petition for mandamus relief, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in transferring the case to the parties' agreed venue.This case stemmed from a lawsuit alleging wrongful disposition of a limited partnership's assets. A group of the limited partners (collectively, Fox River) sued William Carlson, who owned and controlled the partnership's general partner, claiming that Carlson fraudulently misappropriated groundwater leases, breached the limited partnership agreement, and violated fiduciary duties. Fox River filed the lawsuit in Washington County where Carlson was domiciled. Carlson moved to transfer venue to Harris County, citing a venue-selection clause in the limited partnership agreement. The trial court granted the motion, enforcing the parties' venue agreement in accordance with Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 15.020. Fox River sought mandamus relief, arguing that Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 65.023(a) mandates venue in a defendant's county of domicile for cases primarily seeking injunctive relief. The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that section 15.020 requires enforcement of the parties' venue-selection agreement not because it is a "super mandatory" venue provision that supersedes section 65.023(a) but because section 65.023(a) does not apply in suits like this where injunctive relief is not the primary and principal relief requested. View "In re Fox River Real Estate Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law