Articles Posted in Contracts

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In this dispute governed by a collective bargaining agreement between a county and its deputy constables, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that deputy constables are “police officers” entitled to enter into collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with their public employers under Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code Ann. 174 and that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in awarding relief to the deputy constables. The county petitioned to vacate the arbitrator’s award, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in concluding that the county violated the CBA by eliminating several deputy constable positions without regard to seniority and ordering the county to reinstate the deputies in order of seniority. The trial court granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and rendered final judgment in its favor. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that deputy constables are “police officers” under the CBA, that the CBA was valid and enforceable, and that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in ordering the deputies’ reinstatement on a seniority basis. View "Jefferson County v. Jefferson County Constables Ass’n" on Justia Law

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In this law firm’s quantum-merit suit for the reasonable value of its services in assisting its client reach a comprehensive settlement of various lawsuits filed against him, the Supreme Court held (1) despite an unenforceable oral contingent-fee agreement, the statute of frauds did not preclude the firm’s quantum-merit claim for services it performed under the agreement; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the firm performed compensable services in negotiating the global settlement, but the firm’s damages expert’s opinion as to the reasonable value of the firm’s services could not be given legal weight, and without the opinion, there was legally insufficient evidence to support the jury’s award. Where there was some evidence of the reasonable value of the law firm’s services, the Supreme Court reversed the part of the court of appeals’ judgment that reinstated the jury’s award, which the trial court set aside in favor of a take-nothing judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial on the amount of the firm’s recovery. View "Hill v. Shamoun & Norman, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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In this case involving competing claims to mineral-lease interests in two tracts of land, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeals that the acreage Endeavor Energy Resources, LP and Endeavor Petroleum, LLC (collectively, Endeavor) retained under “retained-acreage clauses” in expired leases did not include the two tracts at issue. Discovery Operating, Inc., which drilled producing wells on the two subject tracts, claimed the mineral-lease interests based on leases acquired directly from the mineral-estate owners. Endeavor based its claim on prior leases with the same owners covering land that included the two subject tracts. Endeavor never drilled on the tracts, and Endeavor’s leases’ terms had expired. However, the leases included “retained-acreage clauses” providing that the leases would continue after they expired as to a certain number of acres associated with each of the wells Endeavor drilled on adjacent tracts. Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the lower courts, holding that “a governmental proration unit assigned to a well” refers to acreage assigned by the operator, not by field rules. View "Endeavor Energy Resources, LP v. Discovery Operating, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this billing dispute between a general contractor, Dudley Construction, Ltd., and a pipe supplier, ACT Pipe and Supply, Inc., the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and reversed it in part, holding (1) in defending a favorable judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, ACT successfully raised a “cross-point” in the court of appeals that preserved an alternative argument proscribing the jury’s original verdict, even though ACT did not formally label its argument a “cross-point”; and (2) attorney’s fees are not recoverable for a claim brought under the Texas Construction Trust Fund Act. The Court remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Dudley Construction, Ltd. v. ACT Pipe & Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

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The common law rule against perpetuities does not invalidate a grantee’s future interest in the grantor’s reserved non-participating royalty interest (NPRI). In addition, section 91.402 of the Texas Natural Resources Code does not preclude a lessor’s common law claim for breach of contract. The court of appeals concluded that the rule did not bar the grantees’ future interest in the NPRI. The court, however, found that the reservation’s savings clause was ambiguous and remanded the case for a jury to determine the proper interpretation. The court held that section 91.402 does not bar a claim for breach of contract. Finally, while determining that several of the grantees’ claims failed as a matter of law, the court of appeals upheld the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees against the grantor pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann" on Justia Law

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In construing a settlement agreement that conditioned resumption of uranium mining operations on restoration of well-water quality if pre-mining data showed the water had been suitable for specified uses before prior mining operations began, the lower courts impermissibly employed surrounding facts and circumstances to determine subjective intent and interpolate constraints not found in the contract’s unambiguous language. Specifically, the lower courts held that, in determining whether a restoration obligation existed as to a disputed well, the mining company was contractually required to ignore data showing no pre-mining suitability. The Supreme court reversed and rendered judgment for the mining company, holding that the court of appeals clearly erred by relying on extrinsic evidence of intent to add to, alter, and augment the settlement agreements plain and unambiguous language. View "URI, Inc. v. Kleberg County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The lessee of certain mineral interests could not justifiably rely on extra-contractual representations by the lessor’s agent despite “red flags” and a negation-of-warranty clause in the sales documents explicitly placing the risk of title failure on the lessee. In its complaint, the lessee alleged breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Following a pre-trial conference, the trial court issued an order under Tex. R. Civ. P. 166(g) disposing of all of the lessee’s claims, concluding (1) the unambiguous terms of the letter of intent and leases precluded the lessee’s contract claim; and (2) as a matter of law, the lessee could not establish the justifiable-reliance element of its fraud and negligent-misrepresentation claims. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling regarding the contract claim but reversed on fraud and negligent misrepresentation. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment, holding (1) justifiable reliance was an essential element of the lessee’s remaining causes of action; and (2) as a matter of law, the lessee could not show justifiable reliance. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Orca Assets G.P., LLC" 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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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