Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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

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A defendant can prevail on the merits of its counterclaims against a governmental entity when the governmental entity recovers monetary relief on its affirmative claims by filing a lien and a lis pendens and then nonsuits its affirmative claims where the defendant seeks an offset against the amount the governmental entity recovered through the litigation process. Petitioner, which operated pecan orchards, entered into water-supply agreements with Respondent, a political subdivision. Respondent sued Petitioner for breach of contract. Petitioner counterclaimed for breach of contract and fraud. After Respondent recorded a crop lien and a lis pendens against Petitioner’s orchards, Petitioner paid Respondent the amount it sought to remove the lien and lis pendens but continued to pursue its counterclaims seeking an offset against that payment. Respondent later nonsuited its claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondent, ordering that Petitioner take nothing on its counterclaims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Petitioner could not prevail on the merits of its counterclaims merely because Respondent obtained its recovery by filing a lien and lis pendens. View "C. Borunda Holdings, Inc. v. Lake Proctor Irrigation Authority of Comanche County" on Justia Law

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A defendant can prevail on the merits of its counterclaims against a governmental entity when the governmental entity recovers monetary relief on its affirmative claims by filing a lien and a lis pendens and then nonsuits its affirmative claims where the defendant seeks an offset against the amount the governmental entity recovered through the litigation process. Petitioner, which operated pecan orchards, entered into water-supply agreements with Respondent, a political subdivision. Respondent sued Petitioner for breach of contract. Petitioner counterclaimed for breach of contract and fraud. After Respondent recorded a crop lien and a lis pendens against Petitioner’s orchards, Petitioner paid Respondent the amount it sought to remove the lien and lis pendens but continued to pursue its counterclaims seeking an offset against that payment. Respondent later nonsuited its claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondent, ordering that Petitioner take nothing on its counterclaims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Petitioner could not prevail on the merits of its counterclaims merely because Respondent obtained its recovery by filing a lien and lis pendens. View "C. Borunda Holdings, Inc. v. Lake Proctor Irrigation Authority of Comanche County" on Justia Law

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A turnover order is not a final, appealable judgment when it merely orders funds subject to an as yet unadjudicated ownership dispute into the court’s registry. Here, a turnover order directed funds subject to disputed ownership claims into the court’s registry “without prejudice” to the rights of either the judgment creditor or non-judgment debtor to later seek the funds’ release. Nearly six months after the trial court signed the turnover order, Respondent filed a motion to enforce the turnover order and to have the registry funds released to it on the grounds that Petitioner triggered a condition for releasing the funds when it neglected to appeal the turnover order. The trial court ordered the turnover order enforced and registry funds released to Respondent (the “release order”). The court of appeals dismissed Petitioner’s appeal for want of jurisdiction due to Petitioner’s failure to timely appeal the turnover order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner timely appealed the release order; and (2) the turnover order’s provisions did not function as a mandatory injunction, which meant the release order was the final judgment on Petitioner’s claims. View "Alexander Dubs Jefferson & Townsend LLP v. Chevron Phillips Chemical Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Defendants’ failure to fully comply with a temporary restraining order did not justify sanctions even more severe than death-penalty sanctions imposed by the trial court. Plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Defendants. Without taking evidence, the court signed a TRO prohibiting Defendants from engaging in certain conduct. Plaintiffs later filed a motion for contempt and sanctions, alleging that Defendants knowingly violated the TRO. The trial court granted the motion in an order stating that “death penalty sanctions should be imposed” against Defendants. The court then awarded sanctions of $897,938. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) Defendants knowingly violated the TRO without a compelling excuse; but (2) the extreme sanction imposed for the violations of the TRO was an abuse of discretion. View "Altesse Healthcare Solutions, Inc. v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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A client’s communications with his registered patent agent, made to facilitate the agent’s provision of authorized legal services to the client, are privileged under Tex. R. Evid. 503. Andrew Silver brought a breach of contract action against Tabletop Media, LLC, alleging that it failed to pay him for his patent. During discovery, Tabletop sought production of emails between Silver and Raffi Gostanian, the patent agent who represented Silver before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Silver refused to produce the emails, asserting that they were covered by the lawyer-client privilege. The trial court granted Tabletop’s motion to compel production. Thereafter, Silver sought mandamus relief. The court of appeals denied relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding that, under certain circumstances, the existing lawyer-client privilege extends to communications between a registered patent agent and the agent’s client. View "In re Andrew Silver" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure