Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court of Texas examined whether a lender could rescind a loan acceleration and reaccelerate the loan simultaneously, thereby resetting the foreclosure statute of limitations under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.038. The plaintiffs, Linda and Thomas Moore, defaulted on their home loan, leading to an acceleration of the loan by the lenders, Wells Fargo Bank and PHH Mortgage Corporation. The lenders subsequently issued notices rescinding the acceleration and then reaccelerating the loan. The Moores sued, arguing that the foreclosure statute of limitations had run out because the lenders' rescission notices also included notices of reacceleration. The federal district court ruled against the Moores, leading to their appeal and the subsequent certification of questions to the Supreme Court of Texas by the Fifth Circuit. The key question was whether simultaneous rescission and reacceleration could reset the limitations period under Section 16.038.The Supreme Court of Texas held that a rescission that complies with the statute resets the limitations period, even if it is combined with a notice of reacceleration. The court reasoned that the statute doesn't require the rescission notice to be separate from other notices, nor does it impose a waiting period between rescission and reacceleration. The court's ruling means that lenders can rescind and reaccelerate a loan simultaneously, thereby resetting the foreclosure statute of limitations. View "MOORE v. WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A." on Justia Law

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In a dispute between Sealy Emergency Room, L.L.C., Dr. Kannappan Krishnaswamy, and Free Standing Emergency Room Managers of America, L.L.C. (FERMA), along with its doctors, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled on two issues regarding the finality and appealability of judgments. The case arose from a contractual dispute between Sealy ER and FERMA, with both parties filing various claims and counterclaims against each other. The trial court granted FERMA's motion for partial summary judgment, dismissing all of Sealy ER's claims, and later granted FERMA's motion to sever these claims into a separate action.The Supreme Court held that when claims are severed into separate actions, the test for finality applies to each action separately. Thus, any claims that remain pending in the original action are not relevant in deciding whether there is a final judgment in the severed action. Procedural errors in ordering a severance do not affect the finality of the judgment or appellate jurisdiction.Secondly, the court held that when a party seeks attorney’s fees as a remedy for a claim under a prevailing-party standard, a summary judgment against the party on that claim also disposes of its fee request. Therefore, the court’s failure to specifically deny the fee request will not prevent finality if the court’s orders in fact dispose of all parties and claims.In this case, the court concluded that the trial court’s order granting partial summary judgment disposed of all parties and claims that were later severed into a new action. As a result, the severed action became final when the severance order was signed, and Sealy ER timely appealed. The court of appeals erred in holding that it lacked appellate jurisdiction, so the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the court of appeals to address the merits of the appeal. View "SEALY EMERGENCY ROOM, L.L.C. v. FREE STANDING EMERGENCY ROOM MANAGERS OF AMERICA, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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The case in question was heard by the Supreme Court of Texas and revolved around the interpretation of the term "psychiatrist" as it applies to the involuntary civil commitment of individuals exhibiting signs of mental illness. The case involved a 34-year-old man, A.R.C., who had exhibited psychotic symptoms and delusional behavior. Two second-year psychiatry residents completed the required "certificates of medical examination for mental illness," as outlined in Tex. Health & Safety Code § 574.009(a). However, a question arose as to whether these residents could be considered psychiatrists under the statute.The Supreme Court of Texas ruled that these residents were indeed psychiatrists, reversing the lower court's judgment. The court determined that the residents, who were licensed under a physician-in-training program and were engaged in specialized psychiatric training, fell within the definition of a physician specializing in psychiatry. The court rejected the argument that only board-certified psychiatrists qualify under the statute, stating that physicians who specialize in psychiatry qualify as psychiatrists under § 574.009(a).The court emphasized that it is the judge, not the physician, who ultimately decides whether involuntary commitment is necessary or lawful. The court also noted that the legislature has the power to amend the qualifications for psychiatrists and other physicians as it sees fit, provided it adheres to the constitutional requirement of competent medical or psychiatric testimony.The Supreme Court of Texas remanded the case to the court of appeals for consideration of A.R.C.'s remaining challenges. View "IN RE A.R.C." on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the right to use a gravel crossing over a railroad track in Johnson County, Texas. The landowners, Nathan Albert and Chisholm Trail Redi-Mix, LLC, were granted an easement by necessity, an easement by estoppel, and a prescriptive easement by a jury, allowing them to cross the railroad tracks owned by the Fort Worth & Western Railroad Company (Western). The jury also found that the landowners did not trespass on the railroad’s property. The Court of Appeals reversed these findings, stating that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s easement findings and factually insufficient to support the trespass finding. The Supreme Court of Texas partially reversed the Court of Appeals' judgment. It held that while the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury's findings of an easement by necessity and an easement by estoppel, it was legally sufficient to support the prescriptive easement. The Supreme Court of Texas remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals to consider unresolved issues involving the boundaries and permitted uses of the easement. The dispute started when the railroad company began sending notices to the landowners that they were trespassing on the railroad’s property by using the gravel crossing. Despite this, the gravel crossing had been used without issue for many years and had been referenced as a "private road" on local maps since the 1940s. View "ALBERT v. FORT WORTH & WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Texas considered a medical negligence case where a 13-year-old girl, Raynee Dunnick, was bitten by a rattlesnake and was treated by Dr. Kristy Marsillo at a local hospital. The hospital had a specific guideline for snakebite treatment, which was followed by Dr. Marsillo. This guideline recommends administering antivenom, a treatment for snakebite, only when certain clinical parameters are met. According to the guideline, the risk of side effects from the antivenom should also be considered.Raynee and her parents sued Dr. Marsillo, claiming that her adherence to the guidelines and her decision not to immediately administer the antivenom upon Raynee's arrival at the hospital was negligent and resulted in Raynee's pain, suffering, impairment, and disfigurement. The trial court granted Dr. Marsillo's motion for summary judgment on the grounds of no-evidence of breach of duty and causation. The court of appeals reversed this decision, but Dr. Marsillo appealed to the Supreme Court of Texas.In its decision, the Supreme Court of Texas held that under section 74.153(a) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a heightened standard of proof is required for a patient's negligence claim against a physician for injuries arising out of the provision of emergency medical care. The claimant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the physician acted with willful and wanton negligence, which is at least equivalent to gross negligence.The court found that the evidence presented by Raynee did not meet this standard. Specifically, the court found that the expert affidavit provided by Raynee was conclusory and did not adequately explain why the guidelines should have been disregarded or why doing so would have posed an extreme degree of risk to Raynee. Therefore, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Dr. Marsillo. View "MARSILLO v. DUNNICK" on Justia Law

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In Texas, the District Attorney for the 38th Judicial District, Christina Mitchell Busbee, objected to the sale of a property that was purchased with the District's forfeiture funds and was legally owned by Medina County. The District Attorney argued that the County could not sell the property without her consent and that she was entitled to the sale proceeds. The trial court and the court of appeals ruled that the District Attorney did not have standing to make these claims because the relevant statute, Chapter 59, authorizes only the Attorney General to enforce its terms. The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed, holding that the question of whether the District Attorney was authorized to sue under Chapter 59 did not pertain to her constitutional standing to sue, but rather to the merits of her claims. The Court concluded that the District Attorney did have constitutional standing to sue because she had alleged a concrete injury traceable to the County's conduct and redressable by court order. The case was remanded back to the trial court to consider the County's additional jurisdictional challenges. View "BUSBEE v. COUNTY OF MEDINA, TEXAS" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Texas, in this case, addressed two questions relating to the interpretation of Section 16.064(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The questions pertained to the application of this statute when a case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, but the court could have had jurisdiction had the claimants properly pleaded the jurisdictional facts and when the subsequent action is to be filed within 60 days after the dismissal becomes final.The first question was whether Section 16.064(a) applies when the prior court dismissed the action because of lack of jurisdiction, but the court would have had jurisdiction if the claimants had properly pleaded the jurisdictional facts. The Supreme Court of Texas answered in the affirmative, concluding that the statute applies even if the prior court could have had jurisdiction, as long as it dismissed the action due to a perceived lack of jurisdiction.The second question was whether the subsequent action was filed within sixty days after the dismissal became final. The Supreme Court of Texas also answered this question in the affirmative, holding that a dismissal or other disposition becomes final under Section 16.064(a)(2) when the parties have exhausted their appellate remedies and the courts' power to alter the dismissal has ended.The factual background of the case involved two flight attendants who alleged that they were injured when a smoke detector on a flight malfunctioned. They initially filed a suit against The Boeing Company in a federal district court in Houston, then refiled their claims in a federal district court in Dallas. After the Dallas district court dismissed the case due to a lack of jurisdiction (based on inadequate pleading of diversity jurisdiction), the flight attendants appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, and the flight attendants subsequently refiled their claims in state court. Boeing then moved to dismiss the action based on the two-year statute of limitations. The Houston district court granted the motion and dismissed the suit, leading to the certified questions. View "SANDERS v. THE BOEING COMPANY (U.S. Fifth Circuit 22-20317)" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in this products-liability case concluding that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendants was consistent with due process, holding that the minimum-contacts analysis requires evaluation of a defendant's contacts with the forum - Texas - as a whole.Plaintiff was injured when he used a lithium-ion battery that he bought at a store in Texas and used it to charge his e-cigarette. Although Defendants sold and distributed the batteries to manufacturers in Texas they argued that Texas courts lacked personal jurisdiction because they did not send the batteries to Texas for resale to individual consumers to use with e-cigarettes. Specifically, Defendants argued that Plaintiff's claims arose out of the use of the battery in a way Defendants never intended by an individual consumer they never targeted. The lower courts concluded that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendants was consistent with due process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the relatedness prong of the minimum-contacts analysis does not require that the plaintiff's claims arose out of a set of facts mirroring the defendant's expectations about the course its product would follow after entering the state of Texas. View "LG Chem America, Inc. v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief in this mandamus proceeding arising out of a dispute between Property Owners and a Homeowners Association (HOA) regarding enforcement of amended restrictive covenants, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in compelling joinder of the other owners.Property Owners sued the HOA in this case requesting a declaratory judgment that the amended restrictions could not be enforced against them because the required percentage of owners did not approve the amended restrictions. The trial court granted the HOA's motion to abate the claims until Property Owners joined all 700 other owners in the subdivision as parties or face dismissal of their suit. The court of appeals denied Property Owners' ensuing petition for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus and ordered the trial court to vacate its order, holding that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in granting the motion to abate and ordering Property Owners to join the other property owners and that Property Owners lacked an adequate remedy by appeal. View "In re Kappmeyer" on Justia Law

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In this "highly unusual" personal jurisdiction dispute the Supreme Court held that Texas courts have specific jurisdiction over German automobile manufacturers based on their intentional post-sale tampering with affected vehicles that were owned, operated, and serviced in Texas.The State and several local governments brought civil actions to enforce state environmental laws against Defendants - German automobile manufacturers that intentionally evaded federal emissions standards by embedding illegal emissions-defeating technology in graded vehicles. At issue was whether the manufacturers' contacts with Texas satisfied the constitutional requisites to exercising specific personal jurisdiction. The trial court ruled that the manufacturers were amenable to specific personal jurisdiction in Texas, but the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where the manufacturers developed the product, controlled the distribution stream that brought the product to Texas, and "called all the shots," the trial court did not err in exercising specific personal jurisdiction over the German manufacturers. View "State v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft" on Justia Law