Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Defendants' engagement of the judicial process implied that they intended to waive the requirements of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 150.002, which requires that a sworn certificate of merit accompany any lawsuit complaining about a licensed professional engineer's services, and remanded this case for further proceedings. Defendants were professional engineers who were sued by Plaintiffs alleging contract and tort claims. Plaintiff never filed a certificate of merit in this lawsuit. Defendants, however, did not seek dismissal until the eve of trial - 1,219 days after suit was filed. The trial court granted Defendants' motion and dismissed Plaintiffs' lawsuit with prejudice. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Defendants impliedly waived section 150.002's requirements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants waived the statutory right to dismissal by waiving the certificate of merit requirement through their invocation of the judicial process. View "LaLonde v. Gosnell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted two questions of Texas law certified to it from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concerning the damages and attorney's fees available under the Texas Sales Representative Act, chapter 54 of the Business and Commerce Code, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 54.001-.006. The Court answered (1) the time for determining the existence and amount of "unpaid commission due" under section 54.001(1) is the time of the jury or trial court determines the liability the defendant, whether at trial or through another dispositive trial-court process such as summary judgment; and (2) a plaintiff may recover attorney's fees and costs under section 54.004(2) even if the plaintiff does not receive treble damages if the fact-finder determines that the fees and costs were reasonably incurred under the circumstances. View "JCB, Inc. v. Horsburgh & Scott Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment against Plaintiff on his suit seeking damages for an injury he allegedly sustained during his incarceration in the county jail, holding that Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.20 and Tex. Gov't Code 497.096, two statutes that generally protect governmental actors and entities from liability for their own negligence in connection with certain inmate activities, applied to the inmate's claims. Plaintiff filed this suit against Tarrant County alleging that he was injured after a defective chair collapsed during his treatment for diabetes. The trial court granted summary judgment for the County. The appellate court reversed, concluding that the statutes' liability standard of conscious indifference did not apply to at least some of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statutes applied to Plaintiff's claims to bar the County's liability and that Plaintiff failed to raise a material fact issue under the statutes' heightened liability standard. View "Tarrant County, Texas v. Bonner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court awarding specific performance to Pathfinder Oil & Gas, Inc., which claimed a twenty-five percent working interest in certain mineral leases under a letter agreement that Great Western Drilling Ltd. claimed was unenforceable, holding that Pathfinder was entitled to specific performance. On the day before trial, the parties stipules that only certain issues would be submitted to the jury and that favorable jury findings would entitle Pathfinder to specific performance instead of money damages. The jury charge included only the specifically enumerated jury issues, and the jury answered those issues in favor of Pathfinder. The trial court awarded specific performance as provided by the parties' agreement. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment, holding that specific performance was unavailable without a jury finding that Pathfinder was "ready, willing, and able" to perform its obligations under the contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, through the stipulation, Great Western waived the right to insist on any other fact findings that might otherwise have been required to entitle Pathfinder to specific performance. View "Pathfinder Oil & Gas, Inc. v. Great Western Drilling, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this case in which an off-duty law enforcement officer fatally shot a suspect during the course of an attempted arrest outside his primary jurisdiction, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of the officer's motion to dismiss, holding that the action was an "official capacity" suit that must be dismissed under the Texas Tort Claims Act. Plaintiffs sued the officer that killed their son in his individual capacity for wrongful death. The trial court denied the officer's motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that, as a matter of law, the officer could not have been doing his job as a peace officer because a peace officer operating extraterritorially would not be obligated to make arrest under the circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a licensed peace officer acting under the warrantless-arrest provision in Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 14.03(g)(2) is within the general scope of the officer's employment for purposes of Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 101.01(f); and (2) the officer in this case was sued in his official capacity and was therefore entitled to be dismissed. View "Garza v. Harrison" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this guardianship proceeding, the Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to disqualify counsel for the guardianship applicant due to a purported conflict of interest. Jamie Rogers, represented by Alfred Allen, filed an application for temporary guardianship of Verna Thetford's person and a management trust for her estate. Verna moved to disqualify Allen as Jamie's counsel, asserting that Allen had represented Verna and that she objected to his representation of Jamie in violation of his fiduciary duties to her. The trial court denied the motion to disqualify and appointed Jamie as temporary guardian for Verna. Verna argued before the Supreme Court that the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct required that Allen be disqualified. The Supreme Court held (1) the Rules permit such representation in limited circumstances and that a trial court's decision regarding disqualification, based on a careful, thorough consideration of the evidence, is entitled to great deference by an appellate court; and (2) there was no reason to disturb the trial court's discretion in this case. View "In re Thetford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court affirming the order of the Texas Medical Board imposing disciplinary sanctions under the Medical Practice Act against a physician for violating a state law that requires medical certifications for death certificates to be completed electronically, holding that disciplinary action was not authorized. On appeal, the physician argued that the Medical Practice Act does not authorize disciplinary action for failing to complete a medical certification for a death certificate electronically. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that a physician's act of completing the medical certification for a death certificate manually rather than by using the approved electronic practice does not authorize the Board to take disciplinary action against a person for such conduct. View "Aleman v. Texas Medical Board" on Justia Law

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In this defamation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court that a Newspaper was not entitled to summary judgment, holding that fact issues existed that precluded summary judgment. Specifically, the Court held (1) the court of appeals did not err in finding a fact issue on whether the statements at issue were substantially true; and (2) the court of appeals properly found that the Newspaper did not prove it was entitled to summary judgment on the ground that the editorial at issue in this case was protected opinion. View "Scripps NP Operating, LLC v. Carter" on Justia Law

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In this parental termination case, the Supreme Court remanded this case to the court of appeals for further proceedings, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that the evidence was sufficient to terminate Father's parental rights under Tex. Fam. Code 161.001(b)(1)(O) without addressing Father's challenge to section 161.001(b)(1)(D). The trial court terminated Father's parental rights under three grounds for termination specified in the Texas Family Code - sections 161.001(b)(1)(D), (N), and (O). On appeal, Father challenged the sufficiency of the evidence as to all three grounds. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's order for termination based only on section 161.001(b)(1)(O). The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) in light of In re N.G., __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), in which the Court held that due process requires an appellate court to review and detail its analysis as to termination of parental rights under section 161.001(b)(1)(D) or (e) when challenge on appeal, the court of appeals erred failing to address Father's challenge as to section 161.001(b)(1)(O); and (2) the court of appeals erred in failing to address the merits of section 161.001(d) as it relates to termination of Father's parental rights under section 161.001(b)(1)(O). View "In re Interest of Z.M.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and rendered judgment dismissing Plaintiff's claims that a governmental entity breached a contractual promise to make a good faith effort to obtain authorization for a higher payment than the parties' written contract required the entity to make, holding that governmental immunity applied and that chapter 271 of the Texas Local Government Code did not waive the entity's immunity. Vizant Technologies sued the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Board for, inter alia, breach of contract, alleging in part that the Board failed to make a promised good-faith effort to authorize increased compensation than that set forth in the parties' contract. The Board filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that governmental immunity barred Vizant's claims. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of the Board's plea against Vizant's breach of contract claim, holding that, while governmental immunity applied, chapter 271 of the Texas Local Government Code waived the Board's immunity against that claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that governmental immunity barred all of Vizant's claims against the Board and that chapter 271 did not waive that immunity. View "Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board v. Vizant Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law