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The dispute arose from a contingency fee agreement (agreement) for legal services. Attorneys filed suit against Client seeking a judgment that would include an ownership interest in a business partially formed by Client as compensation for unpaid attorney fees. A jury found that Attorneys were not entitled to an ownership interest under the terms of the agreement. The trial court granted Attorneys’ motion for a new trial, concluding that the agreement unambiguously provided for the recovery of an ownership interest as attorney fees. The Supreme Court conditionally granted Client’s petition for writ of mandamus, directing the trial court to vacate its new trial orders and render a final judgment consistent with this opinion, holding that the agreement unambiguously did not permit Attorneys to recovery from the ownership interest in the business. View "In re Dean Davenport" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Tex. Prop. Code 12.0071, the lis pendens expunction statute, does not legally eradicate coextensive information that may be obtained independently of the information contained in the notice of underlying litigation. Two companies (collectively, Defendants) each bought real property involved in a title dispute. Notices of lis pendens were filed on the pieces of property involved in the suit. The trial court subsequently expunged the notices of lis penden. Claiming bona-fide-purchaser status, Defendants each filed summary judgment motions, claiming that they lawfully relied on the trial court’s expungement order, which voided any notice derived from the lis pendens. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that section 12.0071 extinguished actual and constructive notice of the title dispute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the unresolved fact issue of whether Defendants had actual, independent knowledge of the issues covered by the lis pendens notice precluded summary judgment; and (2) Defendants have not established bona fide purchaser status simply by relying on the expungement order. View "Sommers v. Sandcastle Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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This action stemmed from a “without cause” termination of Plaintiff’s five-year employment contract at the end of his third contract year. Plaintiff brought claims against his former employer, its chief executive officer, and its professional services company for, inter alia, breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the claims for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendants, holding (1) the employer was entitled to summary judgment on the breach of contract claim where the employer was not required to prove the reasons it terminated Plaintiff’s employment contract “without cause” an the relevant provisions of the contract were not ambiguous; (2) Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the tortious interference claim where Plaintiff presented no evidence of willful or intentional interference; and (3) the employer’s professional services company was entitled to Plaintiff’s tortious interference claim where it conclusively established its justification defense to the claim. View "Community Health Systems Professional Services Corp. v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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Homeowners sued Builder for failing to construct their home in a good and workmanlike manner. Builder’s commercial general liability insurer (Insurer) refused to defend Builder in the suit. Judgment was granted in favor of Homeowners after a trial, and Builder assigned the majority of its claims against Insurer to Homeowners. Homeowners subsequently sought to recover the judgment from Insurer under the applicable policy. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Homeowners. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and, in the interests of justice, remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, holding (1) the judgment against Builder was not binding on Insurer in this suit because it was not the product of a fully adversarial proceeding; but (2) this insurance litigation may serve to determine Insurer’s liability, although the parties in the case focused on other issues during the trial. View "Great American Insurance Co. v. Hamel" on Justia Law

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Darin Spassoff and 6 Tool, LLC, formerly known as Dallas Dodgers Baseball Club, LLC (the Dodgers), sued Stephen Bedford for libel and business disparagement, among other claims. The claims arose from Bedford’s act of posting on Facebook allegations that his wife had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the Dodgers’ batting coach. Bedford moved to dismiss all claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, asserting that Plaintiffs brought the claims to prevent him from engaging in constitutionally-protected activities. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed the judgment in regards to all claims but Plaintiffs’ libel claim, concluding that Plaintiffs established a prima facie case for each essential element of their libel claim. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment as to the libel claim, holding that Bedford’s statements were not defamatory per se, and the Dodgers did not establish damages by clear and specific evidence. View "Bedford v. Spassoff" on Justia Law

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Company sued two of its directors and entities associated with them after discovering that one of the entities had purchased mineral leases in an area where Company had been investigating the possibility of buying leases. A jury found that the directors breached their fiduciary duties to Company in two ways. The trial court awarded a constructive trust to Company on most of the leases in question and also required the disgorgement of money derived from past lease production revenues. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s finding that the directors breached their fiduciary duties by usurping a corporate opportunity; and (2) the pleadings were insufficient to support a claim for breach of fiduciary duty by undisclosed competition with Company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the constructive trust award was erroneous; and (2) there was no basis for the trial court to render judgment in favor of Company for money. View "Longview Energy Co. v. Huff Energy Fund, LP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

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The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss based on the sufficiency of a certificate of merit supplied by Plaintiff. Plaintiff, a water supply corporation, contracted with Defendant to provide engineering design and project supervision services for a new water treatment plant. After the project was substantially completed, Plaintiff sued Defendant and others involved in the contract, attributing poor water quality issues to the plant’s design and construction. To comply with the certificate-of-merit statute, Plaintiff filed the affidavit of a licensed professional with its original petition. In this interlocutory appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in not dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint because the certificate of merit’s author was unqualified and the affidavit failed to provide the factual basis required by Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 150.002. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Melden & Hunt, Inc. v. East Rio Hondo Water Supply Corp." on Justia Law

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An expert report required by the Texas Medical Liability Act must address proximate cause. Plaintiff brought this health care liability claim against Hospital and others for the death of Yolanda Iris Flores. To satisfy the Act’s expert-report requirement, Plaintiff served two reports. Hospital argued that the expert reports did not adequately show causation. The trial court overruled the objection and denied Hospital’s motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that an expert report is not required to address proximate cause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s expert reports did not show how Hospital caused Flores’s death, and therefore, the court of appeals’ judgment must be reversed and the cause remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Columbia Valley Healthcare System, L.P. v. Zamarripa" on Justia Law

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A party’s attorney-billing information is normally not discoverable when the party challenges an opposing party’s attorney-fee request as unreasonable or unnecessary but neither uses its own attorney fees as a comparator nor seeks to recover any portion of its own attorney fees. Several lawsuits brought by insured homeowners against various insurers and claims adjustors alleging underpayment of insured property-damage claims were consolidated into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings, including discovery. In this discovery dispute, individual homeowners sought attorney fees incurred in prosecuting their claims. The homeowners sought discovery regarding the insurer’s attorney-billing information. The insurer argued that the requested discovery was overly broad and sought information that was both irrelevant and protected by the attorney-client and work-product privileges. The MDL pretrial court ordered the insurer to respond to the discovery requests. The court of appeals denied the insurer’s petition for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief and directed the trial court to vacate its discovery order, holding that, absent unusual circumstances, information about an opposing party’s attorney fees and expenses is privileged or irrelevant and, thus, not discoverable. View "In re National Lloyds Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In dispute in this case were 1991 deeds purporting to pass title of all the grantors’ mineral interests in Harrison County to Petitioners. In 2011, the grantors deed to Respondent the same interests they had conveyed to Petitioners. Respondent then sued Petitioners to quiet title to mineral interests, asserting that the property descriptions and general granting clause in the 1991 deeds were insufficient to satisfy the Statue of Frauds because the property conveyed was not identified with reasonable certainty. The trial court granted summary judgment for Petitioners on the title issue and rendered a take-nothing judgment against Respondent. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the general granting clause was ambiguous. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment that Respondent take nothing, holding that the general grants in the 1991 deeds were valid and unambiguous, conveying title of the grantors’ Harrison County mineral interests to Petitioners. View "Davis v. Mueller" on Justia Law