Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Vethan Law Firm represents Turner in a suit against Lopez, who is represented by Cweren. Vethan hired Wright as a paralegal to work on Turner’s case. Wright exchanged emails with lawyers, communicated with Turner, reviewed confidential information, drafted an engagement letter, and attended meetings in which Vethan attorneys discussed Turner’s case. Wright’s employment ended weeks later. Cweren hired Wright months later. To screen for potential conflicts, Cweren apparently asked interview questions based on the applicant’s resume. Wright did not disclose her employment at Vethan on her resume nor did she volunteer any information during the interview. Wright worked for Cweren on the Turner matter for several months, largely in a clerical capacity. After Vethan noticed Wright’s initials on Cweren documents, Vethan asserted that Wright’s participation required Cweren to withdraw as Lopez’s counsel. Wright denied that she had worked on the Turner matter while employed by Vethan. Cweren refused to withdraw but instructed Wright not to discuss the case with other employees, barred her from viewing any Turner files, and shifted all responsibility for the case to other paralegals. Vethan unsuccessfully moved to disqualify Cweren. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed. A court must grant a motion to disqualify a firm whose nonlawyer employee previously worked for opposing counsel if the nonlawyer obtained confidential information about the matter while working at the opposing firm and then shared that information with her current firm. Both requirements are met here. View "In re Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the court of appeals and the trial court in this interlocutory appeal arising from Respondent’s lawsuit contesting the validity of a sex offender residency restrictions ordinance enacted by the City of Krum. Respondent sued the City, challenging the City’s authority to pass the ordinance. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Respondent lacked standing to sue. The trial court denied the plea, and Respondent filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed the order denying the City’s plea to the jurisdiction. The City filed a petition for review. While the petition was pending, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1111, codified at Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code 341.906, and the City amended its ordinance. The Supreme Court held that Respondent’s challenge to the ordinance was moot in light of these changes in the law. Therefore, the courts lacked jurisdiction over Respondent’s claims. The court vacated the judgments of the court of appeals and the trial court and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "City of Krum, Texas v. Rice" on Justia Law

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The proceedings involving the forfeiture of two handguns pursuant to Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 18.19 are civil in nature such that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction, but, in this case, conviction for possession of a weapon did not authorize a forfeiture under article 18.19(e), which allows forfeiture based on conviction of an offense involving use of the weapon. Defendant was arrested and convicted for the unlawful carrying of two handguns. Thereafter, the State moved under section 18.19(e) for forfeiture of the guns. The trial court granted the motions. The court of appeals determined that the forfeiture proceedings were civil in nature, severed the appeals of the forfeiture orders from the appeals of the convictions, and affirmed the forfeiture orders on the basis that “use” of a weapon under article 18.19(e) includes simply possessing the weapon. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) jurisdiction was proper in the Supreme Court; but (2) the trial court’s forfeiture orders made pursuant to article 18.19(e) were not valid when they were based on Defendant’s conviction under Tex. Penal Code 46. View "Tafel v. State" on Justia Law

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In this tort suit arising from a real estate transaction, the Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief to Relators from an order denying leave to designate Plaintiffs’ legal advisors as responsible third parties. Relators’ motion to designate was filed long after an initial trial date but seventy-six days before a new trial setting. The trial court denied the motion to designate without granting leave to replead. The court of appeals denied mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted Relators’ petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the trial court erred in denying Relators’ motion because it was filed more than sixty days before the trial setting and the court did not afford Relators an opportunity to cure any pleading deficiency. View "In re Coppola" on Justia Law

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At issue in this discovery dispute arising in the context of multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving allegations of underpaid homeowner insurance claims was whether a party’s attorney-billing information is discoverable when the party challenges an opposing party’s attorney-fee request as unreasonable or unnecessary but neither uses its own attorney fees as a comparator nor seeks to recover any portion of its own attorney fees. The MDL pretrial court ordered the insurer in this case to respond to the discovery requests. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief and directed the trial court to vacate its discovery order, holding (1) compelling en masse production of a party’s billing records invades the attorney work-product privilege; (2) the privilege is not waived simply because the party resisting discovery has challenged the opponent’s attorney-fee request; and (3) such information is generally not discoverable. View "In re National Lloyds Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals, which dismissed Petitioners’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Petitioners timely filed their interlocutory appeal. Respondent filed suit against several parties, including Petitioners - municipal development corporations (MDCs) - alleging that negligent construction of a municipal hiking and walking path caused damming, resulting in damage to his property. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss and plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Respondent’s claims lacked a jurisdictional basis. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss as to some claims but denied relief as to all other claims. The MDCs subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims for injunctive relief, arguing that Respondent’s claims lacked a jurisdictional basis and evidentiary merit. The trial court denied the motion, and the MDCs appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the MDCs’ appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the MDCs’ hybrid motion for summary judgment was not a mere motion for reconsideration but, rather, a distinct motion that merited an independent twenty-day interlocutory appeal period. View "City of Magnolia 4A Economic Development Corp. v. Smedley" on Justia Law

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Homeowners sued Builder for failing to construct their home in a good and workmanlike manner. Builder’s commercial general liability insurer (Insurer) refused to defend Builder in the suit. Judgment was granted in favor of Homeowners after a trial, and Builder assigned the majority of its claims against Insurer to Homeowners. Homeowners subsequently sought to recover the judgment from Insurer under the applicable policy. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Homeowners. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and, in the interests of justice, remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, holding (1) the judgment against Builder was not binding on Insurer in this suit because it was not the product of a fully adversarial proceeding; but (2) this insurance litigation may serve to determine Insurer’s liability, although the parties in the case focused on other issues during the trial. View "Great American Insurance Co. v. Hamel" on Justia Law

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A party’s attorney-billing information is normally not discoverable when the party challenges an opposing party’s attorney-fee request as unreasonable or unnecessary but neither uses its own attorney fees as a comparator nor seeks to recover any portion of its own attorney fees. Several lawsuits brought by insured homeowners against various insurers and claims adjustors alleging underpayment of insured property-damage claims were consolidated into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings, including discovery. In this discovery dispute, individual homeowners sought attorney fees incurred in prosecuting their claims. The homeowners sought discovery regarding the insurer’s attorney-billing information. The insurer argued that the requested discovery was overly broad and sought information that was both irrelevant and protected by the attorney-client and work-product privileges. The MDL pretrial court ordered the insurer to respond to the discovery requests. The court of appeals denied the insurer’s petition for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief and directed the trial court to vacate its discovery order, holding that, absent unusual circumstances, information about an opposing party’s attorney fees and expenses is privileged or irrelevant and, thus, not discoverable. View "In re National Lloyds Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court took the opportunity in these consolidated mandamus proceedings to provide further clarity regarding electronically stored information (ESI) discovery. In this dispute, the requesting party sought ESI in native form while the responding party offered to produce the ESI in searchable static form, which the responding party asserted was more accessible and convenient given its routine business practices. The trial court ordered production in native form subject to a showing of infeasibility. The court of appeals denied mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied the petitions for mandamus relief without prejudice, offering the responding party an opportunity to once again object to the discovery in light of this opinion, holding that evidence that a reasonably usable alternative form of ESI is readily available gives rise to the need for balancing, and if the factors outlined in this opinion preponderate against production in the requested form, the trial court may order production as requested under certain circumstances, but otherwise the responding party need only produce the data reasonably available in the ordinary course of business in reasonably usable form. View "In re State Farm Lloyds" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Certain minority shareholders filed suit in a Texas court alleging dilution of equity interests. Defendants responded by invoking a forum-selection clause designating Delaware as the proper forum for disputes arising out of a shareholders agreement. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the forum-selection clause did not control because the shareholders’ extracontractual claims did not allege noncompliance or interference with any rights or obligations derived from the shareholders agreement. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the shareholders’ claims in part, holding (1) the shareholders’ statutory and common-law tort claims evidence a “dispute arising out of” the shareholders agreement; and (2) the shareholders’ noncontractual claims fell within the forum-selection clause’s scope. View "Pinto Technology Ventures, LP v. Sheldon" on Justia Law