Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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The Supreme Court held that trial courts must expressly rule on objections in writing for error to be preserved. Plaintiffs sued Allstate Texas Lloyds and one of its adjusters (collectively, Allstate) asserting contractual and extra-contractual claims. Allstate moved for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a summary-judgment response that referred to certain pieces of summary-judgment evidence, including an affidavit, but Plaintiffs failed to attach any evidence to their response. The only evidence Plaintiffs provided was filed late. Allstate objected in writing to Plaintiffs’ summary-judgment evidence on multiple grounds. The trial court granted summary judgment for Allstate but did not specify the grounds for its judgment. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs’ only summary-judgment evidence was incompetent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) unless Allstate complained of a defect in the evidence’s substance, rather than its form, it was obligated not only to object but also to obtain a ruling on its objection; and (2) Allstate’s objections were waived in this case. View "Seim v. Allstate Texas Lloyds" on Justia Law

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In this removal proceeding brought under chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code (the removal statute), the Texas Local Government Code (TCPA) applied, and the state failed to establish a prima facie case for the removal of a county official. George Best sought to remove Paul Harper from the Somervell County Hospital District Board by filing this suit under the removal statute. The county attorney appeared in this case as plaintiff on the state’s behalf, and the state adopted Best’s allegations. Harper filed a motion to dismiss under the TCPA, arguing that Best filed, and the state joined, the removal petition based in response to Harper’s exercise of the right to petition and right of free speech and that the state could not establish a prima facie case for removal. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this case was a legal action under the TCPA, but the TCPA does not apply when a government attorney brings an enforcement action in the state’s name; and (2) only one of the allegations against Harper constituted an enforcement action, and as to the allegations that were not enforcement actions, the state’s sovereign immunity did not protect it from Harper’s claim for appellate costs. View "State ex rel. Best v. Harper" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the district court correctly dismissed the claim that because of negligent training and handling by private military contractors, a dog that protects soldiers and others by sniffing out enemy improvised explosive devices (IEDs) bit Plaintiff on a United States Army base in Afghanistan. Defendant, which contracted with the Department of Defense to provide teams of working dogs and handlers to the Armed Services, claimed in defense that the incident was caused by the Army’s use and prescribed manner of quartering the dog. Defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting that Plaintiff’s claims were nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine because they required an assessment of the Army’s involvement in causing her alleged injuries. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, thus rejecting the application of the political question doctrine. the Supreme Court reversed, holding that this case is nonjusticiable due to the presence of an inextricable political question. View "American K-9 Detection Services, LLC v. Freeman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a writ of mandamus sought by Melissa Dawson in this pretrial dispute. Dawson sued Defendant for injuries she received at a bar and restaurant. Upon serving Defendant with her original petition, Dawson also propounded a request for disclosures, interrogatories, and requests for production. More than two weeks after limitations expired, Defendant moved for leave to designate Michael Graciano as a responsible party. Dawson opposed the motion for leave on the ground that, under Chapter 33 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a defendant may not designate a responsible third party after limitations has expired if the defendant has failed to comply with its obligations to timely disclose that the person may be designated as a responsible third party. The trial court, however, granted leave. After the court of appeals denied Dawson’s request for mandamus relief, she filed this proceeding. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the writ, holding that Dawson presented adequate grounds for relief by mandamus. View "In re Melissa Dawson" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (Act) preempts, and thus invalidates, a local antilitter ordinance prohibiting merchants from providing “single use” plastic and paper bags to customers for point-of-sale purchases. The trial court upheld the ordinance, which makes it unlawful for any “commercial establishment” to provide or sell certain plastic or paper “checkout bags” to customers. Specifically, the court ruled that the ordinance was not void because reasonable constructions existed under which both the Act and the ordinance could be effective. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the ordinance was preempted by the Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ordinance regulated solid waste containers within the Act’s meaning and that the ordinance was not “authorized by state law"; and (2) therefore, the Act preempted the ordinance. View "City of Laredo, Texas v. Laredo Merchants Ass’n" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court held that sovereign immunity barred the counterclaims filed by Defendants against the State and that it lacked interlocutory jurisdiction to address the trial court’s dismissal of the Defendants’ third-party claims. The State brought this enforcement action under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act, alleging that Defendants - several dentists and their professional associations and employees - fraudulently obtained Medicaid payments for providing dental and orthodontic treatments to children. Defendants asserted counterclaims and third-party claims alleging that the State and its contractor mismanaged the payment-approval process and misled Defendants regarding the requirements imposed by the Texas Medical Program. The trial court granted the State’s plea to the jurisdiction against the counterclaims and motion to dismiss the third-party claims. Defendants filed this interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing Defendants’ counterclaims and concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the order dismissing the third-party claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) sovereign immunity barred the counterclaims, and (2) this Court lacked interlocutory jurisdiction to address the order dismissing the third-party claims. View "Nazari v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the City of Houston does not have governmental immunity from a suit by the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System. This case arose from a dispute over the City of Houston’s creation of local government corporations to which the City transferred some of its employees. At issue was the adoption of resolutions by the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System’s Board of Trustees (Board) related to those employees, their status regarding the City’s pension fund, the correct interpretation of the governing statute. The Houston Municipal Employees Pension System (System) brought this suit seeking to enforce the City’s purported obligation to make contributions to the pension fund. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that governmental immunity barred the System’s claims. The trial court denied the City’s plea. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals and directed that the City’s plea should be denied in full, holding (1) the employees at issue are “members” of the System; (2) the System’s ultra vires and mandamus claims are not barred; and (3) the System’s claims for information pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act are not barred. View "City of Houston v. Houston Municipal Employees Pension System" on Justia Law

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The Texas-residency exception that excludes certain claims from the forum non conveniens doctrine because the claims are prosecuted by a Texas-resident plaintiff or derivative of a Texas decedent applied to some of Plaintiffs’ underlying claims in this case. Venice Alan Cooper was killed while working on his Mahindra tractor at his home in Mississippi. The tractor was sold to the decedent in Mississippi. Plaintiffs, the decedent’s sons and Texas residents, filed a negligence and products liability action in Texas against Mahindra USA, Inc., the tractor’s vendor. Mahindra filed a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when ruling on the motion because the Texas-residency exception to the forum non conveniens doctrine applied to some of Plaintiffs’ underlying claims. View "In re Mahindra, USA Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot the City of Krum’s interlocutory appeal from Taylor Rice’s suit contesting the validity of a sex offender residency restrictions ordinance (SORRO) enacted by the City, holding that Rice’s claims were rendered moot during the pendency of this appeal. Rice pled guilty to sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old. Rice was required to register as a sex offender, and at the time, the City of Krum had in place a SORRO prohibiting certain registered sex offenders such as Rice from residing “within 2,000 feet of any premises where children commonly gather.” The SORRO barred Rice from living in his parents’ house. Rice sued Krum, arguing that Krum lacked the authority to pass the SORRO. Krum filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Rice lacked standing to sue. The trial court denied the plea, and Krum filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed. Krum filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court, reiterating its jurisdictional arguments. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments, holding that Rice’s claims had been rendered moot by changes in the law, and therefore the courts lacked jurisdiction over these claims. View "City of Krum, Texas v. Rice" on Justia Law

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At issue was a trial court order requiring Defendant-hospital to produce information regarding its reimbursement rates from private insurers and public payers for the services it provided to Plaintiff. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s charges were unreasonable and its hospital lien for the amount of its services was invalid to the extent it exceeded a reasonable and regular rate for services rendered. During discovery, the trial court ordered Defendant to produce information regarding the reimbursement rates at issue. Defendant filed a petition for writ of mandamus arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering production of the information because the reimbursement rates were irrelevant to whether its charges to Plaintiff, who was uninsured, were reasonable. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the amounts Defendant accepted as payment for services from other patients, including those covered by private insurance and government benefits, were relevant to whether the charges to Plaintiff were reasonable and were thus discoverable. View "In re North Cypress Medical Center Operating Co." on Justia Law