Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the City of Houston does not have governmental immunity from a suit by the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System. This case arose from a dispute over the City of Houston’s creation of local government corporations to which the City transferred some of its employees. At issue was the adoption of resolutions by the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System’s Board of Trustees (Board) related to those employees, their status regarding the City’s pension fund, the correct interpretation of the governing statute. The Houston Municipal Employees Pension System (System) brought this suit seeking to enforce the City’s purported obligation to make contributions to the pension fund. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that governmental immunity barred the System’s claims. The trial court denied the City’s plea. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals and directed that the City’s plea should be denied in full, holding (1) the employees at issue are “members” of the System; (2) the System’s ultra vires and mandamus claims are not barred; and (3) the System’s claims for information pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act are not barred. View "City of Houston v. Houston Municipal Employees Pension System" on Justia Law

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The Texas-residency exception that excludes certain claims from the forum non conveniens doctrine because the claims are prosecuted by a Texas-resident plaintiff or derivative of a Texas decedent applied to some of Plaintiffs’ underlying claims in this case. Venice Alan Cooper was killed while working on his Mahindra tractor at his home in Mississippi. The tractor was sold to the decedent in Mississippi. Plaintiffs, the decedent’s sons and Texas residents, filed a negligence and products liability action in Texas against Mahindra USA, Inc., the tractor’s vendor. Mahindra filed a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when ruling on the motion because the Texas-residency exception to the forum non conveniens doctrine applied to some of Plaintiffs’ underlying claims. View "In re Mahindra, USA Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot the City of Krum’s interlocutory appeal from Taylor Rice’s suit contesting the validity of a sex offender residency restrictions ordinance (SORRO) enacted by the City, holding that Rice’s claims were rendered moot during the pendency of this appeal. Rice pled guilty to sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old. Rice was required to register as a sex offender, and at the time, the City of Krum had in place a SORRO prohibiting certain registered sex offenders such as Rice from residing “within 2,000 feet of any premises where children commonly gather.” The SORRO barred Rice from living in his parents’ house. Rice sued Krum, arguing that Krum lacked the authority to pass the SORRO. Krum filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Rice lacked standing to sue. The trial court denied the plea, and Krum filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed. Krum filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court, reiterating its jurisdictional arguments. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments, holding that Rice’s claims had been rendered moot by changes in the law, and therefore the courts lacked jurisdiction over these claims. View "City of Krum, Texas v. Rice" on Justia Law

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At issue was a trial court order requiring Defendant-hospital to produce information regarding its reimbursement rates from private insurers and public payers for the services it provided to Plaintiff. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s charges were unreasonable and its hospital lien for the amount of its services was invalid to the extent it exceeded a reasonable and regular rate for services rendered. During discovery, the trial court ordered Defendant to produce information regarding the reimbursement rates at issue. Defendant filed a petition for writ of mandamus arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering production of the information because the reimbursement rates were irrelevant to whether its charges to Plaintiff, who was uninsured, were reasonable. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the amounts Defendant accepted as payment for services from other patients, including those covered by private insurance and government benefits, were relevant to whether the charges to Plaintiff were reasonable and were thus discoverable. View "In re North Cypress Medical Center Operating Co." on Justia Law

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A trial court’s authority to distinguish between genuine and non-genuine fact issues includes the authority to apply the so-called “sham affidavit rule” when confronted with evidence that appears to be a sham designed to avoid summary judgment. Under the sham affidavit rule, if a party submits an affidavit that conflicts with the affiant’s prior sworn testimony and does not provide a sufficient explanation for the conflict, a trial court may disregard the affidavit when deciding whether the party has raised a genuine fact issue to avoid summary judgment. In this commercial dispute, the trial court struck an affidavit as a sham under the rule and granted partial summary judgment. A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed and adopted the sham affidavit doctrine, which had not previously been explicitly recognized by the court of appeals. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision as to the partial summary judgment grant, as the trial court properly concluded that the affidavit in question did not raise a genuine fact issue sufficient to survive summary judgment. The Court then remanded to the court of appeals to consider whether any claims remained unresolved. View "Lujan v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of mandamus filed by Paul Elizondo, Cynthia Elizondo, and Eagle Fabricators, Inc. (collectively, Elizondo) directing the court of appeals to vacate its opinion directing the trial court to vacate an amended order omitting a Lehmann-like finality phase that it had included in its original order after its plenary power had expired. See Lehmann v. Har-Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 205-06 (Tex. 2001). In this action, Elizondo argued that the original order of the trial court was not final and, in the alternative, that Lehmann did not apply to the trial court’s original order. The Supreme Court held (1) the original order’s finality phase was clear, unequivocal, and neither ambiguous nor absurd, and the court of appeals correctly reasoned that the finality phase rendered the record irrelevant to determining whether the order was final; and (2) the trial court’s amended order attempting to correct judicial error beyond the period of that court’s plenary power was void. View "In re Paul & Cynthia Elizondo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In this personal injury case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on limitations, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the discovery rule. Plaintiff was injured when he was exposed to and burned by caustic chemicals while working at an oil well site. Less than two years later, Plaintiff sued several defendants. Plaintiff joined Defendant more than two years after he was injured but less than two years after he was diagnosed with cancer, which he attributed to the chemical exposure. Plaintiff argued that he sued Defendant in a timely manner because his cancer was inherently undiscoverable and that his cause of action did not accrue until he discovered the cancer. The court of appeals reversed the summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact about whether he knew or should have known the nature of his injury before his cancer diagnosis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals incorrectly applied the discovery rule and the latent occupational disease rule. View "Schlumberger Technology Corp. v. Pasko" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Plaintiff mandamus relief from trial court discovery sanctions in this personal injury case arising from a traffic accident. The trial court judge in Jim Wells County, where the case was pending, denied Plaintiff’s motion for protective orders regarding discovery sought from some of her medical providers. The custodians of the medical providers’ records were located in Bear County and were not parties to the lawsuit. After the Bear County district court judge issued his order granting the custodians protective orders, the Jim Wells County district court judge granted Defendants’ motion to exclude and ordered that certain testimony, medical records, and charges be excluded from the trial as sanctions. Plaintiff sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the requirements for mandamus to issue were satisfied. View "In re Carolina Garza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Plaintiff mandamus relief from trial court discovery sanctions in this personal injury case arising from a traffic accident. The trial court judge in Jim Wells County, where the case was pending, denied Plaintiff’s motion for protective orders regarding discovery sought from some of her medical providers. The custodians of the medical providers’ records were located in Bear County and were not parties to the lawsuit. After the Bear County district court judge issued his order granting the custodians protective orders, the Jim Wells County district court judge granted Defendants’ motion to exclude and ordered that certain testimony, medical records, and charges be excluded from the trial as sanctions. Plaintiff sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the requirements for mandamus to issue were satisfied. View "In re Carolina Garza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court withdrew its judgment and opinion issued in this case on April 7, 2017 and, while it reaffirmed the legal principles and rules announced in that opinion, it disagreed as to the procedural effect of those principles in this case. Its disposition remained the same, however, because a majority of the Court agreed to reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial. The primary issue in this case was whether Insured could recover policy benefits based on Insurer’s violation of the Texas Insurance Code even where the jury failed to find that Insurer failed to comply with its obligations under the policy. Here, the Court (1) unanimously reaffirmed the five rules it announced in the first opinion addressing the relationship between contract claims under an insurance policy and tort claims under the Insurance Code; (2) reaffirmed the holding in the first opinion that the trial court erred by disregarding the jury’s answer to a jury question; and (3) addressed the procedural effect of the Court’s holdings in this case but reached three different conclusions. The Court then remanded this case for a new trial. View "USAA Texas Lloyds Co. v. Menchaca" on Justia Law