Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law

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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

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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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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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A jury awarded Plaintiff future lost profits based on Defendants’ failure to comply with their covenants not to compete and covenants not to solicit. The jury also awarded Plaintiff exemplary damages and attorney fees. The trial court awarded Plaintiff the full amount of damages. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment in part and remanded in part, concluding, inter alia, that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s award of future lost profits and that the exemplary damages award was unconstitutionally excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in concluding that the evidence of future lost profits was legally insufficient; (2) the court of appeals’ remitted exemplary damages award was unconstitutionally excessive; and (3) the court of appeals properly found that remand of the issue of attorney’s fees was proper. The court remanded the case to the court of appeals so that it may reconsider its suggested remittitur of exemplary damages. View "Horizon Health Corp. v. Acadia Healthcare Co." on Justia Law

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Certain minority shareholders filed suit in a Texas court alleging dilution of equity interests. Defendants responded by invoking a forum-selection clause designating Delaware as the proper forum for disputes arising out of a shareholders agreement. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the forum-selection clause did not control because the shareholders’ extracontractual claims did not allege noncompliance or interference with any rights or obligations derived from the shareholders agreement. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the shareholders’ claims in part, holding (1) the shareholders’ statutory and common-law tort claims evidence a “dispute arising out of” the shareholders agreement; and (2) the shareholders’ noncontractual claims fell within the forum-selection clause’s scope. View "Pinto Technology Ventures, LP v. Sheldon" on Justia Law

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Respondent was a party to an oil and gas lease that restricted its use of the surface estate and required it to drill from off-site locations when feasible. Briscoe Ranch, Inc. owed an adjacent surface estate and agreed that Respondent could use horizontal drilling to drill from the surface of the Ranch in order to produce minerals from Respondent’s lease. The lessee of the minerals underlying the Ranch (Petitioner) was not a party to the agreement and sought to enjoin Respondent from drilling on the Ranch and asserted claims for both trespass and tortious interference with a contract. Petitioner claimed that its consent was necessary before Respondent could drill through the Ranch’s subsurface covered by its mineral lease. The district court dismissed the claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the loss of minerals Petitioner will suffer by a well being drilled through its mineral estate is not a sufficient injury to support a claim for trespass; and (2) Respondent’s drilling plans did not tortiously interfere with Petitioner’s contractual lease rights. View "Lightning Oil Co. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, LLC" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff who was not a party to a written contract was not permitted to enforce the agreement as a third-party beneficiary. DTSG, Ltd. filed suit against First Bank. Richard Brumitt intervened as an additional plaintiff, alleging that he was a third-party-creditor beneficiary of an agreement entered into by DTSG and First Bank. The jury found First Bank liable to both DTSG and Brumitt for breach of contract and for negligent and grossly negligent misrepresentation. The trial court entered judgment based on the jury’s verdict. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, holding (1) the agreement between DTSG and First Bank was unambiguous and did not make Brumitt a third-party beneficiary; and (2) the trial court erred by submitting that issue to the jury and by instructing the jury that it could consider extrinsic evidence to add a third-party-beneficiary term to the unambiguous written agreement. The court remanded the case for further consideration of Brumitt’s claims alleging negligent and grossly negligent misrepresentations. View "First Bank v. Brumitt" on Justia Law

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Waiver of a nonwaiver provision cannot be anchored in the same conduct the parties specifically agreed would not give rise to a waiver of contract rights. The long-term tenant in this forcible-detainer action frequently defaulted on the lease’s rental payment terms. The commercial landlord, however, regularly accepted, without protest, the tenant’s rental payments when tendered. A contractual nonwaiver provision provided that the landlord acceptance of rent past due “shall not be a waiver and shall not estop Landlord from enforcing that provision or any other provision of [the] lease in the future[.]” In this forcible-detainer action, the landlord sought to oust the tenant, claiming a superior right of immediate possession under a lease-extension option. The tenant, in turn, asserted that the landlord’s conduct in accepting late rental payments waived the contractual nonwaiver clause. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment rejecting the landlord’s forcible detainer action and rendered judgment in the landlord’s favor because the landlord did not act inconsistently with the contract’s express terms and because the tenant failed to identify any evidence supporting an equitable-estoppel bar to eviction. View "Shields Limited Partnership v. Bradeberry" on Justia Law