Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this breach of contract and fiduciary duty action, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that Defendants failed properly to authenticate uncertified copies of a prior jury verdict and judgment - documents upon which the motion for summary judgment relied.Approximately four thousand plaintiffs sued their former attorney and his law firm, alleging breach of contractual and fiduciary duties. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the documents at issue were not properly authenticated and thus were not competent summary judgment evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly exercised its discretion by finding the documents authentic and competent as summary judgment evidence. View "Fleming v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court that Petitioners pay $7,000 from a supersedeas bond over losing the underlying appeal and ordering Petitioners to pay $114,280 from the bond, holding that the court of appeals erred in calculating the amount.When Petitioners were ousted from land upon which their cattle grazed, they brought this action challenging the ouster. The trial court granted summary judgment in part for Respondents then, after a trial, rendered judgment that Petitioners take nothing. The trial court allowed Petitioners to suspend the judgment by posting a supersedeas bond, which meant Petitioners could keep their cattle on the leased land during the appeal. The trial court ruled that Respondent was entitled to $7,000 from the bond. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Respondent should recover $114,280 from the bond, basing its calculation on the expense Petitioners would have incurred if the judgment had not been superseded. At issue was how "loss or damage" is calculated on release of a supersedeas bond under Tex. R. App. 24.2(a)(3). The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's order, holding that the proper measure is the actual loss Respondent suffered because the judgment was superseded. View "Haedge v. Central Texas Cattlemen's Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this cattle-feeding dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals overturning the trial court's denial of Appellees' post-judgment motion to compel arbitration, holding that a party does not forfeit its right to challenge a ruling on appeal from a final judgment simply by choosing not to pursue an interlocutory appeal of that ruling.Appellants brought this action alleging fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims. Appellees moved to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration, arguing that the claims were subject to the agreement's arbitration clause. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellees did not challenge the court's ruling through an interlocutory appeal. After the trial court rendered judgment Appellees appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied their motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court order the parties to arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider the trial court's denial of Appellees' motion to compel arbitration; and (2) on the merits, the court of appeals did not err in ordering arbitration. View "Bonsmara Natural Beef Co. v. Hart of Texas Cattle Feeders, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that an insurer's payment of an appraisal award barred an insured's claims under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCA), Tex. Ins. Code chapter 542, holding that payment of an appraisal award does not extinguish TPPCA liability as a matter of law.After Insured's property sustained damage from a storm, Insurer valued the property damage at $5,153. Believing the property damage was undervalued, Insured sued, alleging breach of contract and extra-contractual claims and invoking the policy's appraisal clause. Appraisers valued the damage at almost $15,000. Insurer paid the balance of the award and then filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that, as a matter of law, Insured could not maintain his TPPCA claim because Insurer paid the appraisal award. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the court of appeals' opinion was inconsistent with this Court's recent decisions on the issue. View "Perry v. United Services Automobile Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that an insurer's payment of an appraisal award barred an insured's claims under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCA), Tex. Ins. Code chapter 542, holding that payment of an appraisal award does not extinguish TPPCA liability as a matter of law.After Insured's property sustained hail and wind damage, Insurer valued the property damage at $387. Believing the damage was undervalued, Insured sued, alleging breach of contract and extra-contractual claims. Insurer successfully moved the trial court to compel appraisal, and the appraisal award exceeded Insurer's prior estimates. Insurer paid the award and then filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that, as a matter of law, Insured could not maintain his TPPCA claim because Insurer paid the appraisal award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals' opinion was inconsistent with this Court's recent decisions on the issue. View "Marchbanks v. Liberty Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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In this real estate dispute, the Supreme Court held that where the plain language of a special warranty deed limited the grantor's liability for failures of title to claims asserted by individuals "by, through and under" the grantor, the grantor could not be liable for breach of the covenant of seisin because the plaintiff asserted no such claim.The grantor of property, who purchased the property at a foreclosure sale, and the grantee entered into a residential sales contract, and the grantor conveyed the property by special warranty deed to the grantee. The grantee obtained title insurance from an insurer. When the validity of the foreclosure sale was challenged, the insurer assumed the grantee's defense and settled the suit. As the grantee's subrogee, the insurer sued the grantor for breach of the sales contract and breach of the implied covenant of seisin. The trial court found in favor of the insurer. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court held (1) the special warranty deed barred the insurer's recovery because, regardless of whether it implied the covenant of seisin, the deed limited the grantor's liability for failures of title to claims asserted by individuals "by, through and under" the grantor; (2) because the failure of title did not arise from such a claim, the grantor was not liable for it; and (3) the merger doctrine barred the insurer's breach of contract claim. View "Chicago Title Insurance Co. v. Cochran Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Expedited Declaratory Judgment Act (EDJA), Tex. Gov't Code ch. 1205, gave the trial court jurisdiction to declare whether contracts executed by the San Jacinto River Authority were legal and valid but not whether the Authority complied with the contracts in setting specific water rates.The Authority, which has contracts to sell water to cities and other customers and uses the revenue to pay off its bonds, filed suit seeking declarations under the EDJA regarding the contracts and the water rates set under those contracts. Several participants, including three cities (Cities) opted in as interested parties. The Cities filed pleas to the jurisdiction, arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the Authority's claims. The trial court denied the pleas to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals held primarily for the Authority. The Supreme Court held (2) the EDJA permits the trial court to exercise jurisdiction over the Authority's claims as to the valid execution of the contracts, but it does not confer jurisdiction over whether the Authority complied with the contracts in setting specific water rates; and (2) the Cities' governmental immunity does not bar an EDJA claim, which is brought in rem to adjudicate interests in property. View "City of Conroe, Texas v. San Jacinto River Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals holding that a forum-selection clause in a contract bound all involved parties even where the only signatories did not assert any claims against one another, holding that the court of appeals erred in construing the contract containing the forum-selection clause and a contract that did not as a single, unified instrument and by applying the transaction-participant enforcement theory.Personal jurisdiction over two nonresident individuals and a nonresident LLC was premised on a forum-selection clause in a contract the nonresident LLC executed with a resident LLC. A signatory LLC sought to enforce the clause against nonsignatory individuals, and nonsignatory individuals sought to enforce the clause against nonsignatory individuals and a signatory LLC. The court of appeals concluded that all defendants were amenable to suit in Texas regardless of their status as a signatory. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the separately executed instruments considered by the court of appeals were not part of a single, unified instrument and, therefore, must be construed separately; and (2) the transaction participant enforcement theory relied upon by the court of appeals was inapplicable. View "Rieder v. Woods" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court concluded that, as to Plaintiffs' fraud claims, GTECH Corporation, a private contractor, would not qualify for derivative sovereign immunity for services it provided to the Texas Lottery Commission even if the Court recognized that doctrine but that GTECH was entitled to immunity from Plaintiffs' allegations of aiding and abetting the Commission's fraud and of conspiracy with the Commission.The Commission contracted with GTECH for instant ticket manufacturing and services. Plaintiffs filed two separate suits alleging that the instructions on a scratch-off lottery ticket mistakenly caused them to believe they had winning tickets. GTECH filed pleas to the jurisdiction, arguing that it was entitled to the Commission's immunity. The Dallas County trial court granted GTECH's plea to the jurisdiction. The Travis County trial court denied the plea. The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed. The Austin Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court held (1) GTECH was not entitled to immunity from Plaintiffs' fraud claims because the Commission did not control GTECH's choices in writing the game instructions; and (2) GTECH was entitled to immunity from the theories of conspiracy and of aiding and abetting because Plaintiffs must necessarily override the substance of the Commission's underlying decisions in order to impose derivative liability on GTECH. View "GTECH Corp. v. Steele" on Justia Law

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In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity.The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law