Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
In re Texan Millwork
The Supreme Court conditionally granted Relator's mandamus petition seeking relief from an order of the trial court compelling Relator to produce a certain witness for oral deposition, holding that the trial court abused its discretion.Jay Adashera, an employee of a wholesale granite purveyor, died when two 400-pound granite slabs fell off a contractor's truck at his workplace. His survivors sued the granite company and the truck owners, Lazaro Cabrera, for negligence and wrongful death. The survivors obtained a default judgment against Cabrera and then added claims against Texan Millwork, Inc., the company who had hired Cabrera to fabricate the slabs into countertops. At issue was whether Cabrera was an independent contractor and not an employee of Texan Millwork at the time of the accident. To secure Cabrera's testimony, the survivors filed a motion to compel Texan Millwork to produce Cabrera, "its agent and/or employee" for deposition. The trial court granted the motion to compel, and the court of appeals granted Texan Millwork's petition for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the petition, holding that because there was no evidence of retention, employment, or control at the time discovery was sought, the trial court erred in compelling Texan Millwork to produce Cabrera for an oral deposition. View "In re Texan Millwork" on Justia Law
In re Centerpoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC
The Supreme Court denied CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC's petition for writ of mandamus in this negligence action, holding that the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) did not have exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate issues of duty and breach that underlay Plaintiffs' claims.A good Samaritan was electrocuted in an attempt to help the victims of a wreck that downed a CenterPoint power line. The man's family and estate brought wrongful-death and survival claims against CenterPoint, alleging that CenterPoint had a duty to design, construct, operate, and maintain its electricity distribution system to de-energize portions of the distribution lines promptly when they experience faults. CenterPoint filed a plea to the jurisdiction, contending that the PUC's exclusive jurisdiction over an electric utility's rates, services, and operations extends to adjudicating whether its line-protection measures were lawful and complied with industry standards. The probate court denied CenterPoint's plea to the jurisdiction, after which CenterPoint filed a petition for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the PUC did not have exclusive jurisdiction over any issues underlying this common-law negligence dispute. View "In re Centerpoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC" on Justia Law
In re Facebook, Inc.
The Supreme Court denied in part and conditionally granted in part the petition for mandamus relief filed by Facebook, Inc. directing the dismissal of three lawsuits brought by three plaintiffs alleging that they were victims of sex trafficking who became entangled with their abusers through Facebook, holding that certain claims may proceed but that the remaining claims must be dismissed.Plaintiffs alleged claims claims for negligence, negligent undertaking, gross negligence, and products liability based on Facebook’s alleged failure to warn of or prevent sex trafficking on its internet platforms. Plaintiffs also asserted claims under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 98.002, which creates a civil cause of action against those who intentionally or knowingly benefit from participation in a sex-trafficking venture. Facebook moved to dismiss all claims as barred by the federal Communications Decency Act, 47 US.C. 230(e)(3). After the motions were denied, Facebook sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court granted relief in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs' claims for negligence, gross negligence, negligent undertaking, and products liability must be dismissed; and (2) Plaintiffs' claims under section 98.002 may proceed. View "In re Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Oncor Electric Delivery Co., LLC
The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief in this action considering whether an electric utility may compel a plaintiff who alleges a common law personal injury claim to appear before the Public Utility Commission before appearing in court, holding that the Commission may not do so unless the claim complains about the utility's rates or its provision of electrical service.This was a personal injury claim against a utility arising under duties at common law and consumer protection statutes. Plaintiff alleged well-settled elements of a negligence claim, but his allegations did not rely on a utility acting in its regulated capacity, nor on a disruption of or failure to provide electrical service. At issue was whether the action was a regulatory action within the auspices of the Commission. The Supreme Court denied the utility's petition for writ of mandamus asking the trial court to abate the case to require Plaintiff to exhaust his administrative remedies before the Commission, holding that this action was not a regulatory action within the auspices of the Commission. View "In re Oncor Electric Delivery Co., LLC" on Justia Law
In re Texas-New Mexico Power Co.
The Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of mandamus sought by Texas-New Mexico Power Co. (TNM) in this negligence action, holding that Plaintiffs' claim was not one within the Public Utility Commission's (PUC) exclusive original jurisdiction because it was not about TNM's operations and services as a utility.Plaintiffs, a larger number of homeowners near the Junemann Bayou and Las Marque, sued TNM, their electric utility, for damages due to flooding during Hurricane Harvey, alleging that TNM was negligent in not requiring its contractor to secure wooden mats to the ground during a construction project. The trial court denied TNM's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and TNM petitioned for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the PUC's exclusive original jurisdiction did not extend to the issues underlying this tort claim. View "In re Texas-New Mexico Power Co." on Justia Law
In re Academy, Ltd.
The Supreme Court conditionally granted Academy Sports + Outdoors' petition for writ of mandamus arguing that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) required dismissal of the underlying suits, holding that the PLCAA barred the lawsuits and protected Academy from continued participation in litigation.Plaintiffs - victims of the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting and their families - brought lawsuits against the retailer from which the perpetrator purchased the weapon used in the shooting. Academy filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the PLCAA barred Plaintiffs' suits. The trial court denied the motion. Academy then filed a petition for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court granted mandamus relief, holding (1) summary judgment was wrongly denied because the underlying lawsuits were qualified civil liability actions that the PLCAA barred as a matter of law; and (2) Academy, who was entitled to summary judgment, lacked an adequate remedy on appeal. View "In re Academy, Ltd." on Justia Law
In re Diocese of Lubbock
The Supreme Court conditionally granted a petition for writ of mandamus sought by the Diocese of Lubbock, as relator, asserting that ecclesiastical abstention prohibits the trial court from assuming jurisdiction over a suit brought by one of its ordained deacons against the Diocese and that, therefore, the trial court should have granted the Diocese's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that dismissal of the deacon's underlying lawsuit was required.This lawsuit arose out of an investigation by the Diocese into its clergy and the inclusion of the deacon's name on a list of the Diocese's clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, as well as the Diocese's public statements regarding the list following its release to the Diocese's public website. The court of appeals concluded that the Diocese's investigation lost ecclesiastical protection when it related to the issue of sexual abuse, which is not strictly and purely ecclesiastical. The Supreme Court granted the Diocese's petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to dismiss the deacon's underlying lawsuit, holding that exercising jurisdiction over the underlying case would encroach on the Diocese's decision to investigate its clergy consistent with its internal policies. View "In re Diocese of Lubbock" on Justia Law
Diocese of Lubbock v. Guerrero
The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's underlying interlocutory order denying a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003, and the judgment of the court of appeals denying the Diocese of Lubbock's mandamus petition, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to proceed in the underlying litigation.The claims at issue arose out of the Diocese's inclusion of Jesus Guerroro's name on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. Guerroro sued, claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Diocese filed a plea to the jurisdiction and followed the plea with a motion to dismiss under the TCPA. The trial court denied both. The court of appeals denied the Diocese's mandamus petition and affirmed the trial court's TCPA order with respect to the defamation claim. The Supreme Court vacated the orders below, holding (1) the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over Guerroro's suit; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred by not sustaining the Diocese's plea to the jurisdiction and dismissing the underlying case. View "Diocese of Lubbock v. Guerrero" on Justia Law
Hogan v. Zoanni
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the trial court denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to nine of thirteen allegedly defamatory statements, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to the nine disputed statements.The court of appeals concluded that only four of thirteen statements submitted to the jury in a nonsegregated jury question met the requirements of the Defamation Mitigation Act (DMA) and reversed and remanded for a new trial with respect to only those four defamation claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the DMA provides of the abatement of claims and loss of exemplary damages, rather than dismissal; and (2) because that remedy was available to Defendant when Plaintiff amended his complaint to add the nine disputed statements, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to those claims. View "Hogan v. Zoanni" on Justia Law
In re K&L Auto Crushers, LLC
The Supreme Court conditionally granted a writ of mandamus and ordered the trial court to vacate its order denying K&L Auto Crushers' motion for reconsideration, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by denying K&L Auto's requested discovery and that K&L Auto had no adequate remedy by way of appeal.Kevin Walker, who was injured in a motor-vehicle collision with a tractor-trailer rig driven by Thomas Gothard, sued Gothard and his employer, K&L Auto. K&L Auto served subpoenas on Walker's healthcare providers requesting production of information related to their billing practices and rates. Three of the providers filed motions to quash the subpoenas on several grounds. The trial court quashed the subpoenas without explanation. K&L Auto moved for reconsideration, stating that it was willing to enter into a protective order and narrow its requests. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus, holding that the information sought through K&L Auto's narrowed requests was relevant and that the trial court abused its discretion by completely denying discovery of that information. View "In re K&L Auto Crushers, LLC" on Justia Law