Most Viewed Decisions

Supreme Court of Texas

Apache Deepwater, LLC v. McDaniel Partners, Ltd., 14-0546 (Tex. 02/26/2016)

Oil and Gas The trial court concluded that a production payment reserved in the assignment of four oil and gas leaseholds could be adjusted to account for the termination of an underlying lease because the payment was carved respectively from the four leases. The court of appeals disagreed. Absent express language in the assignment to the contrary, the general rule is that when an oil and gas lease terminates, the overriding royalty or similar production payment created in an assignment of the lease is likewise extinguished. The court of appeals’ judgment is reversed and rendered. Apache Deepwater LLC v. McDaniel Partners Ltd., Texas Supreme Court, No. 14-0546, 02/26/2016.

14-0546
John P. Devine Justice.

Supreme Court of Texas

McMillen v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, 15-0147 (Tex. 02/26/2016)

Employment Law In this Whistleblower Act case, the court of appeals held that a former employee of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission did not report the violation alleged to an appropriate law-enforcement authority. The Office of the Inspector General is an appropriate law-enforcement authority. Because the reported-to persons had power beyond internal discipline to regulate under or enforce the law allegedly violated, they were an appropriate law-enforcement authority under the Whistleblower Act. The court of appeals’ judgment is reversed and remanded. McMillen v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, Texas Supreme Court, No. 15-0147, 02/26/2016.

15-0147
PER CURIAM

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

Ex parte Perry, PD-1067-15 (Tex.Crim.App. 02/24/2016)

Criminal Law This case arises from a governor's threat to exercise a veto and his ultimate exercise of that veto. The governor can raise his separation of powers complaint as an as-applied challenge in a pretrial habeas application followed by an interlocutory appeal. Prosecuting the exercise of a veto under the "abuse of official capacity" statute is a violation of the Separation of Powers provision of the Texas Constitution. The relevant portion of the "coercion of a public servant" statute as used to prosecute the threat to exercise a veto is facially unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. The court of appeals’ judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the indictment is ordered dismissed. Ex parte Perry, Court of Criminal Appeals, No. PD-1067-15, 02/24/2016.

PD-1067-15
Keller, P.J.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

Salinas v. State, 14-12-00378-CR (Tex.App. Dist.14 01/28/2016)

The appellant challenges his conviction for alleged injury to an elderly person. Interconnected statutes direct the comptroller to allocate the proceeds collected under Texas Local Government Code §133.102(e)(5) and (6) to uses that relate to the administration of our criminal justice system and are thus legitimate criminal justice purposes under Peraza. The appellant has not met his burden to prevail on his facial challenge by establishing that §133.102 always operates unconstitutionally in all possible circumstances. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed. Salinas v. State, Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals, No. 14-12-00378-CR, 01/28/2016.

14-12-00378-CR
WILLIAM J. BOYCE JUSTICE

Practice Areas: Criminal Law

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

L.L.C. v. National Labor Relations Board, 15-60011 (5th Cir. 03/24/2016)

Labor and Employment Appellant Hallmark, a government contractor providing vehicle maintenance services at air force bases in Florida. Hallmark entered into two separate collective bargaining agreements with two different unions. After the contract terminations, disputes arose under each CBA regarding severance, accrued vacation pay. The unions filed unfair labor charges under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §151 charging Hallmark with bad faith collective bargaining by unilaterally modifying the terms of the CBAs. Hallmark challenged the employees were not entitled to severance as they were being terminated. The board found in favor of the unions when Hallmark failed to make the disputed payments. Hallmark appealed arguing the dispute should have been resolved under the arbitration procedures of the CBAs and that it had “sound arguable basis” for its interpretation of the CBA provisions. The appeals court affirmed in part holding that Hallmark was not consistent with its willingness to allow an arbitrator to address the merits of the unions’ charges based on differing letters; therefore the board did not abuse its discretion in asserting jurisdiction over this matter. Additionally properly held that Hallmark lacked a sound arguable basis for its interpretation between “termination” and “laid off” as the terms are interchangeable. However, the board erred in dismissing the carry-over vacation pay funds and lead-pay premium payments as Hallmark has a plausible argument that the Air Force engaged the “rebid” provision of the CBAs through its cost reassessments. Accordingly, the case was remanded to the board for the limited purpose of calculating severance pay minus the lead-pay differential and adjusting the carry-over vacation pay. L.L.C. v. National Labor Relations Board, U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 15-60011, 03/24/2016

15-60011
E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Health Care Service Corp. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas, 15-10154 (5th Cir. 02/10/2016)

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, an administer of benefit plans, in its declaratory judgment against a hospital. The district court held that Texas Insurance Code Chapter 1301 does not apply to the plaintiff as the administrator of the plans at issue and that the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act of 1959 preempts Chapter 1301's application to claims under FEHBP plans administered by the plaintiff. The plaintiff does not provide benefits through its administrator and preferred provider agreements, but instead merely distributes claim payments from plans to providers. Subsection 1301.0041(a) is inapplicable. Chapter 1301 is inapplicable to the plaintiff when it administers self-funded plans, state government plans, and claims under the BlueCard program (allowing beneficiaries covered by out-of-state plans to access their coverage when receiving medical services in a state other than the one in which their plans are based). In as much as application of Chapter 1301 to FEHBP carriers would disrupt the uniformity of FEHBP plan administration, FEHBA preempts Chapter 1301's application to the claims processed by the plaintiff under FEHBP plans. The district court’s judgment is affirmed. Health Care Service Corp. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-10154, 02/10/2016.

15-10154
WIENER, Circuit Judge

Supreme Court of Texas

TV Azteca v. Ruiz, 14-0186 (Tex. 02/26/2016)

Torts The petitioners are Mexican citizens who broadcast television programs on over-the-air signals that originate in Mexico but travel into parts of Texas. The allegations and evidence that petitioners harmed Texas residents in Texas, petitioners' broadcasts were viewable in Texas, and petitioners knew Texans could watch the programs in Texas, taken together with evidence that petitioners exploited the Texas market to capitalize on the broadcasts that traveled into Texas, establishes purposeful availment and provides a constitutional basis for exercising jurisdiction. The court of appeals’ judgment is affirmed. TV Azteca v. Ruiz, 14-0186 (Tex. 02/26/2016)

14-0186
Jeffrey S. Boyd Justice.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

United States v. Castaneda-Lozoya, 15-40022 (5th Cir. 02/04/2016)

The district court determined that a prior conviction for alleged sexual assault subjected the appellant to a 20-year sentence following his plea of guilty to alleged illegal reentry. Even if variations in the Texas statutory definitions ultimately lead to the conclusion that the appellant’s offense was not an aggravated felony, he still has not shown plain error in the sentence. If the district court erred, it was in concluding that the statutory maximum for the offense was 20 years when it should have been 10. The sentence imposed was for 41 months of imprisonment. Speculation does not support a finding of reversible plain error. The district court’s judgment is affirmed. United States v. Castaneda-Lozoya, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-40022, 02/04/2016.

15-40022
LESLIE H. SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judge

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

Oiltanking Houston, L.P. v. Delgado, 14-14-00158-CV (Tex.App. Dist.14 01/28/2016)

An employee of an independent contractor died in an explosion that occurred at the appellant’s oil storage facility. Regardless of the negligence theory being invoked by the claimants, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 95's requirements must be satisfied before liability can attach to the appellant property owner under the circumstances presented in this case. Knowledge that the appellant’s facility handles crude oil, that "elaborate safety precautions" are warranted because the facility handles crude oil, and that the pipe at issue had been used to transport crude oil from an adjacent tank shortly before the independant contractor’s work began, is at most knowledge of a potential danger or condition from the presence of flammable vapors. Knowledge of this nature does not establish that the appellant had actual knowledge of the danger as required under §95.003(2) and Abutahoun. The trial court’s judgment is reversed and a take-nothing judgment is rendered in favor of the appellant. Oiltanking Houston, L.P. v. Delgado, Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals, No. 14-14-00158-CV, 01/28/2016.

14-14-00158-CV
WILLIAM J. BOYCE, JUSTICE.

Practice Areas: Torts

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

Finley v. State, PD-1473-14 (Tex.Crim.App. 02/24/2016)

Criminal Law At a bench trial, the judge convicted the appellant for allegedly resisting arrest. A divided court affirmed the conviction. The majority held that the evidence was legally sufficient because the appellant pulled away from the police officers who attempted to arrest him and that a rational trier of fact could reasonably infer that he pulled away forcefully. The appellant used force against the officers by pulling against the officers' force. In this case, pulling away from the officers satisfies the Dobbs requirment of "opposition or hostility to" the police officers. The court of appeals’ judgment is affirmed. Finley v. State, PD-1473-14 (Tex.Crim.App. 02/24/2016)

PD-1473-14
Keasler, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Keller, P.J., Johnson, Hervey, Alcala, Richardson, Yeary, and Newell, JJ., joined. Meyers, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Meyers, J., filed a dissenting opinion.