Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Supreme Court granted in part mandamus relief sought by an insurance carrier from the trial court's order compelling the deposition of the carrier's corporate representative, holding that, under the circumstances, the insured was entitled to depose the carrier's corporate representative on certain matters, but some of the noticed deposition topics exceeded the narrow permissible scope of such a deposition.Frank Wearden, the insured, was involved in an accident and sued USAA General Indemnity, the insurance carrier, for breach of contract and a declaratory judgment seeking to recover benefits under his policy's uninsured/underinsured motorist provisions. Wearden served a notice of intent to take the oral deposition of a USAA corporate representative, listing certain areas the deposition would cover. USAA filed a motion to quash the deposition notice. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court granted mandamus relief, holding (1) the discovery rules did not categorically prohibit the deposition of USAA's corporate representative; (2) the proper subject matter of the deposition is limited to the issues in dispute and may not intrude into matters that are privileged or are beyond the scope of those issues; and (3) with respect to Wearden's deposition topics exceeding that proper scope, the trial court abused its discretion in denying USAA's motion to quash. View "In re USAA General Indemnity Co." on Justia 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 service on WWLC Investment, LP by Sorab Miraki was not defective, holding that WWLC met its burden to prove lack of proper service.After WWLC had Miraki evicted, Miraki sued for breach of lease, fraud, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code ch. 17. Miraki accomplished substituted service by attaching a copy of the petition and citation to the front door of the home of an WWLC employee. When WWLC did not answer, Miraki took a default judgment against it. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that service on WWLC was not defective. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that WWLC demonstrated that it was not properly served. View "WWLC Investment, LP v. Miraki" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Petitioners (collectively, BPX) were not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of whether Margaret Strickhausen impliedly ratified an unauthorized pooling agreement, holding that BPX did not establish implied ratification as a matter of law.BPX was a lessee of Strickhausen's mineral interest. The lease required BPX to obtain Strickhausen's express written consent before pooling her tract with others. Strickhausen never gave express written consent to BPX, which meant that BPX could not pool "under any circumstances." Strickhausen sued BPX for breach of contract, among other claims, after BPX filed a certificate of pooling authority for a well on her tract. BPX filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Strickhausen impliedly ratified the pooling because she accepted royalty payments calculated on a pooled basis. The trial court granted an interlocutory summary judgment for BPX on Strickhausen's wrongful pooling, commingling, and failure to account claims. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment for BPX on the issue of implied ratification was improper. View "BPX Operating Co v. Strickhausen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court denying Aerotek, Inc.'s motion to compel arbitration, holding that an alleged signatory's simple denial that he signed the record was insufficient to prevent attribution of an electronic signature to him.Plaintiffs, four individuals, were hired by Aerotek to work as contractors on a construction project. After all four were terminated, they sued Aerotek and others for racial discrimination and retaliation. Aerotek moved to compel arbitration based on an online-only hiring application that each employee had completed. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that they had completed the online hiring application but denying that they had ever seen or signed a mutual arbitration agreement (MAA) within the application. The trial court denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals affirmed, rejecting Aerotek's argument that it had conclusively established the validity of the MAAs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Aerotek conclusively established that Plaintiffs signed, and therefore consented to, the MAAs; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred in denying Aerotek's motion to compel arbitration. View "Aerotek, Inc. v. Boyd" on Justia 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 affirmed the determination of the court of appeals that the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 37.001-.011, can be used to establish an insurance carrier's liability for benefits under an underinsured motorist (UIM) policy, holding that a declaratory judgment action can be used for this purpose.On appeal, the Insurer argued that Insured's use of the UDJA to determine Insured's contract rights and to seek attorney's fees in the UIM case impermissibly dodged the Supreme Court's decision in Brainard v. Trinity Universal Insurance Co., 216 S.W.3d 809 (Tex. 2006). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as well, holding (1) a declaratory judgment in the instant case was the proper remedy for resolving this contractual dispute; and (2) attorney's fees may be recovered under the UDJA under the circumstances. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Irwin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court declined to issue mandamus relief to compel Commissioner George P. Bush, head of the General Land Office, to refer the City of Galveston's claim that that the Land Office owed reimbursement to the City, holding that the City was not entitled to mandamus relief.The dispute in this case arose from a block grant contract that required the City to administer federal disaster relief funds. The City hired a private contractor to do some of the work, and the private contractor later sued the City for alleged amounts owed under the parties' contract. After the City settled with the private contractor it filed a claim for reimbursement from the Land Office for the settlement amount paid by the City. Bush refused to refer the City's claim to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for an administrative law judge to hear it. The City brought this action asking that the Supreme Court exercise its original mandamus jurisdiction over state officials to compel Bush to refer the claim. The Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus, holding that where, as part of the settlement, the City agreed not to sue Bush in any "related proceeding," mandamus relief was precluded. View "In re City of Galveston, Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to render judgment in favor of Insurer on the jury's verdict, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to render judgment on the verdict.Insured sought underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits from Insurer. Insurer in this case declined to participate in a jury trial to establish the at-fault motorist's liability and demanded a separate trial on its liability under the UIM policy. Before trial on the UIM claim, the court commenced a jury trial on Insured's negligence claim against the at-fault motorist. The parties settled and the claim was dismissed without rendition of judgment on the jury's verdict. Insurer then argued that a separate trial on the UIM claim was no longer necessary because of the jury's findings and the settlement payment. The trial court denied Insurer's motion for judgment based on the jury verdict from the negligence trial. Insurer sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) collateral estoppel did not bind Insured to a verdict that was not reduced to judgment; and (2) Insurer's post-dismissal consent to be bound by the negligence suit's outcome did not make the negligence verdict enforceable against Insured in the contract suit. View "In re USAA General Indemnity Co." 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 affirmed the portion of the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting a motion to reconsider the court's denial of a motion to seal brought under Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a, holding that the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 134A.006a, does not provide an independent, self-contained pathway for sealing court records.Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of contract, and Defendant asserted counterclaims, including misappropriation of trade secrets. The jury found in favor of Defendant. Defendant subsequently filed a Rule 76a motion to seal thirty trial exhibits. The trial court denied the motion to seal but then granted Defendant's motion to reconsider that relied exclusively on section 134A.006a of TUTSA. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the trial court to exercise its discretion under the applicable provisions of both TUTSA and Rule 76a, holding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the non-displaced provisions of Rule 76a in ruling on the motion to reconsider. View "HouseCanary, Inc. v. Title Source, Inc." on Justia Law