Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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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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The Supreme Court took the opportunity in these consolidated mandamus proceedings to provide further clarity regarding electronically stored information (ESI) discovery. In this dispute, the requesting party sought ESI in native form while the responding party offered to produce the ESI in searchable static form, which the responding party asserted was more accessible and convenient given its routine business practices. The trial court ordered production in native form subject to a showing of infeasibility. The court of appeals denied mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied the petitions for mandamus relief without prejudice, offering the responding party an opportunity to once again object to the discovery in light of this opinion, holding that evidence that a reasonably usable alternative form of ESI is readily available gives rise to the need for balancing, and if the factors outlined in this opinion preponderate against production in the requested form, the trial court may order production as requested under certain circumstances, but otherwise the responding party need only produce the data reasonably available in the ordinary course of business in reasonably usable form. View "In re State Farm Lloyds" 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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At issue was whether a private university that operates a state-authorized police department is a “governmental unit” for purposes of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 51.014(a)(8), which provides for an interlocutory appeal from an order that “grants or denies a plea to the jurisdiction by a governmental unit.” The private university in this case was the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), and the case arose from an UIW officer’s use of deadly force following a traffic stop. The parents of the UIW student killed in the incident sued UIW for their son’s death. UIW raised governmental immunity as a defense and asked the trial court to dismiss the suit in a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the plea. UIW took an interlocutory appeal under section 51.014(a)(8). The court of appeals dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that UIW is a governmental unit for purposes of law enforcement and is therefore entitled to pursue an interlocutory appeal under section 51.014(a)(8). View "University of the Incarnate Word v. Redus" on Justia Law

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Tex. Civ. Prac. Rem. Code 150.002 provides that if an expert affidavit in a lawsuit or arbitration for damages arising out of the provision of professional services by licensed or registered professionals is not filed in accordance with the statute, the trial court shall dismiss the claim, and the dismissal may be with prejudice. The Supreme Court held that the statute affords trial courts discretion to dismiss either with or without prejudice. In this case, the statute required dismissal of the amended petition against Defendant. The trial court dismissed the claims without prejudice, but the court of appeals dismissed them with prejudice because, while the amended petition was accompanied by an expert affidavit, an expert affidavit was not filed with the original petition. The Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the claims with prejudice, as the record did not conclusively demonstrate that Plaintiff’s claims lacked merit or that the trial court’s decision violated any guiding rules and principles and therefore was an abuse of discretion. View "Pedernal Energy, LLC v. Bruington" on Justia Law

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Several related nonresident corporate defendants entered into an agreement with Texas companies to settle a New York lawsuit. In the underlying suit, Plaintiff, a nonresident, alleged that, by virtue of the settlement agreement, the parties to the agreement tortiously interfered with another nonresident company’s indemnity obligations to Plaintiff. To support Texas’s specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendants, Plaintiff alleged that the agreement was partially negotiated in Texas and substantially performed in Texas. The nonresident corporate defendants filed special appearances. The trial court denied the special appearances, concluding that Texas had specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the trial court had specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendants in this suit. Remanded. View "M&F Worldwide Corp. v. Pepsi-Cola Metropolitan Bottling Co." on Justia Law

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An oil-and-gas lessor sued the lessee for failure to pay royalties. The trial court concluded that the lessor’s neighboring landowners were necessary parties to the suit and dismissed the case without prejudice because the lessor failed to join them. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in requiring joinder. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court abuse its discretion in requiring joinder under Tex. R. Civ. P. 39 and dismissing the case because the adjacent landowners did not claim an interest relating to the subject of the lessor’s suit against the lessee. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Crawford v. XTO Energy, Inc" on Justia Law

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Rigney Construction & Development, LLC contracted with Red Dot Building System, Inc. for a portion of a school construction project. A dispute arose as to the scope of the work Red Dot was to perform under the contract. Red Dot later sued Rigney in Henderson County district court for an unpaid invoice. Thereafter, Rigney sued Red Dot in Hidalgo County. All of the claims related to the contract with Red Dot. Red Dot asked the Hidalgo County court to transfer the suit to Henderson County or abate the suit. The Hidalgo County court denied the motions to transfer and abate. Both courts set their cases for trial. Red Dot sought mandamus relief and, alternatively, asked the Supreme Court to instruct the Hidalgo County court to transfer its case to Henderson County or to abate the Hidalgo County suit. The Supreme Court granted mandamus relief insofar as Red Dot asked the Court to order the Hidalgo County court to transfer the case to Henderson County, holding that Hidalgo County court should have abated the suit pending in that court because Henderson County court acquired dominant jurisdiction. View "In re Red Dot Building System, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who owned insurance policies with National Lloyds Insurance Company, filed independent lawsuits against National Lloyds, claiming they were underpaid on claims following two hail storms in Hidalgo County. The Multidistrict Litigation Panel of Texas (MDL Panel) granted the motions of other insurance carriers seeking to transfer cases arising from the hail storms to a pretrial court and subsequently transferred Plaintiffs’ claims to the same pretrial court. At issue in this case was National Lloyd’s failure to produce certain information requested by Plaintiffs. The pretrial court entered an order compelling National Lloyds to produce six categories of documents, including “management reports and emails,” and assessed sanctions for attorney’s fees. National Lloyds sought mandamus relief, asserting that the compelled discovery was overbroad. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding (1) the pretrial court abused its discretion in compelling production of the management reports and emails; and (2) because the pretrial court’s order was overboard as the management reports and emails, but because National Lloyds failed to produce five other categories of discovery, the sanctions award must be reevaluated. View "In re National Lloyds Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The City of Corsicana, Navarro County, and Navarro College (collectively, Navarro) filed a Tex. R. Civ. P. 202 petition in the county court of Navarro County to investigate a potential tortious interference claim against the City of Dallas. The county court denied Dallas’s immunity-based plea to the jurisdiction, granted Navarro’s Rule 202 petition, and authorized depositions. The Supreme Court granted mandamus relief conditionally vacating the trial court’s order and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to determine its jurisdiction over the claim Navarro sought to investigate. Remanded for the county court to vacate its order authorizing depositions and to first determine its jurisdiction in accordance with the standards discussed in this opinion. View "In re City of Dallas" on Justia Law