Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (Commission) granted an amendment to a dairy concentrated animal feeding operation's water-quality permit. A downstream city (City) sought to intervene in the permit process and obtain a contested case hearing, claiming that the dairy's operations under the amended permit would adversely affect the quality of the municipal water supply. By rule, an affected person may request a contested case hearing when authorized by law. The Commission granted the amended permit without a contested case hearing. The City appealed, claiming it was an "affected person" entitled to a contested case hearing. The district court affirmed, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the City was an affected person entitled to a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment for the Commission, holding (1) a person affected by a proposed water-quality permit has the right to request a hearing, but the Commission has discretion to deny the request under certain circumstances; and (2) sufficient evidence supported the Commission's determination that the proposed amended permit did not foreclose Commission discretion to consider the amended application at a regular meeting rather than after a contested case hearing. View "Tex. Comm'n on Envtl. Quality v. City of Waco" on Justia Law

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Employee was a psychiatric nurse employed by Employer, a health care provider. Employee was injured at work while restraining a psychiatric patient. Employee filed a negligence action against Employer, seeking damages for personal injuries. Employer moved to dismiss Employee's suit, asserting that the suit alleged a health care liability claim (HCLC) under the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA) and that Employee's failure to serve Employer with an expert report within the TMLA's 120-day deadline mandated dismissal of his suit. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee's claim that Employer provided improper security of the psychiatric patient and inadequate safety for Employee was an HCLC under the TMLA, and therefore, Employee was required to serve an expert report within 120 days of filing suit. Remanded with instructions to dismiss Employee's complaint. View "Psychiatric Solutions, Inc. v. Palit" on Justia Law

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Seller and Buyers entered into a contract for a deed. Buyers made payments to Seller for almost three years. Because Seller did not provide Buyers with all information required by Tex. Prop. Code 5(D), Buyers later told Seller they were exercising their statutory right to cancel and rescind the contract for deed. Seller sued Buyers for breach of contract. Buyers counterclaimed for violations under the Property Code, among other statutory violations. Seller, in turn, alleged he was entitled to a setoff in the amount of the fair market rental value of the property for the time Buyers occupied the house. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Buyers, awarding actual damages for cancellation and rescission of the contract for deed, among other damages. The Court reversed the trial court's awards of actual damages for cancellation and rescission, holding (1) subchapter D's cancellation-and-rescission remedy contemplates mutual restitution of benefits among the parties; and (2) thus, Buyers were required to restore to Seller supplemental enrichment in the form of rent for their interim occupation of the property upon cancellation and rescission of the contract for deed. Remanded. View "Morton v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

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Respondents were successors-in-interest to 380 acres of land once owned by Baker, now deceased. Petitioners entered into a lease agreement with Baker that contained an option allowing Petitioners to buy the land if Baker decided to sell it. Petitioners and Baker subsequently agreed that Petitioners would purchase the 380 acres for $470,000. Petitioners attempted to exercise their right to buy the property under the agreement, but Respondents brought a declaratory judgment action to void the agreement. The trial court rendered a final judgment for Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the agreement was ambiguous as to whether it was a presently binding contract or merely an agreement to agree, and (2) therefore, the agreement's enforceability was a fact issue that should not have been determined by summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the agreement contained all material terms and was an enforceable contract as a matter of law. Remanded. View "McCalla v. Baker's Campground, Inc." on Justia Law

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Homes built with an exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) suffer serious water damage that worsens over time. Homebuilder began a remediation program in which it offered to homeowners to remove exterior EIFS from the homes it had built and to replace it with conventional stucco. Almost all the homeowners accepted Homebuilder's offer of remediation. Homebuilder sought indemnification for the costs from its insurers (Insurers). Insurers denied coverage, preferring instead to wait until the homeowners sued. This litigation ensued. Now, only one insurer remained. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of Homebuilder, finding (1) Homebuilder failed to establish its legal liability to the homeowners to trigger Insurer's coverage; and (2) Homebuilder failed to offer evidence of damages covered by the policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Homebuilder's settlements with the homeowners established both Insurer's legal liability for the property damages and the basis for determining the amount of loss; and (2) Insurer's policy covered Homebuilder's entire remediation costs for damaged homes. View "Lennar Corp. v. Markel Am. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Time Cole Act (Act) entitles a person who has been wrongfully imprisoned to compensation from the State. Payments terminate, however, if, after the date the person becomes eligible for compensation, the person is convicted of a crime punishable as a felony. Michael Blair had a lengthy criminal record. Blair was first convicted in 1988. In 1993, Blair was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In 2004, Blair pleaded guilty to four indictments of indecency with a child, for which he was given three consecutive life sentences. In 2008, the court of criminal appeals set aside Blair's murder conviction based on DNA evidence, and the State dismissed the charge. Defendant subsequently applied for compensation for having been wrongfully incarcerated from 1993 to 2004. The Comptroller denied compensation. The Supreme Court concluded that the Comptroller correctly denied Blair's claim for compensation, holding that the Act does not require payments to a felon who remains incarcerated for a conviction that occurred before he became eligible for compensation. View "In re Blair" on Justia Law

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Tara and Gregory were granted a divorce on October 18, 2010 after a jury trial. On December 22, 2010, the trial court signed a second judgment. Tara filed her notice of appeal seventy-five days after the trial court's second judgment. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely. However, Tara had timely filed a motion to modify the first judgment, and the trial court's second judgment did not grant all the relief Tara requested. Tara appealed the order dismissing her appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in dismissing the appeal because the motion to modify operated to extend the appellate timetable after the second judgment, and therefore, the notice of appeal was timely. Remanded. View "Brighton v. Koss" on Justia Law

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A government contractor (HCSC) contracted with the federal government to administer two health insurance programs. HCSC incurred expenses while performing the contracts that were reimbursed by the government. After the Comptroller denied HCSC's request for a refund for some of the sales and use taxes it paid on the expenses, HCSC brought tax-refund suits, claiming the purchases it made to administer the health-insurance programs qualified for the Tax Code's sale-for-resale exemption, which grants purchasers of taxable goods and services a sales-tax exemption if they resell the items. The lower courts determined HCSC was entitled to the claimed refunds. The Supreme Court affirmed on all but one issue, holding (1) the exemption applied to HCSC's requested refunds for tangible personal property and taxable services; but (2) the exemption did not apply to HCSC's requested refunds for leases of tangible of personal property. Remanded. View "Combs v. Health Care Servs. Corp." on Justia Law

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A staffing services company (Company) furnished workers for the City, including Respondent. During the course of his employment, Employee lost an arm working on a garbage truck driven by an employee of the City. Respondent sued the City and its employee (collectively, Petitioners). Petitioners filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting governmental immunity based in part on the exclusive remedy under the Texas Labor Code, which provides that recovery of workers' compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers' compensation insurance. The trial court dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a fact question remained whether Respondent, who was paid by Company, was within the specific terms of the City's workers' compensation coverage. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding that, as a matter of law, the City provided Respondent's workers' compensation coverage, and therefore, Respondent's exclusive remedy was the compensation benefits to which he was entitled. View "City of Bellaire v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Respondents filed this health care liability action against Petitioner. The trial court awarded Respondents $9 million in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages. The court of appeals reversed the punitive damages award. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment affirmance of the actual damages award, finding that Petitioner's liability was statutorily capped. On remand, the trial court vacated the original judgment and awarded Respondents actual damages capped according to the relevant statute plus postjudgment interest calculated from the date of the remand judgment. The court of appeals reversed the remand judgment, holding that the trial court erred by vacating its original judgment and by calculating the postjudgment interest from the date of the remand judgment rather than the date of the original judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to review the trial court's remand judgment; (2) postjudgment interest must be calculated from the date of the original judgment; and (3) the trial court's order vacating the original judgment was error, but it was not reversible error. Remanded. View "Phillips v. Bramlett" on Justia Law