Most Viewed Decisions

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Hays v. HCA Holdings, Incorporated, 15-51002 (5th Cir. 09/29/2016)

Appellant suffered from epilepsy; after a series of stress-related seizures, he was fired from his cardiology practice. Appellant brought several claims against appellees arising out of his alleged wrongful termination alleging that they failed to accommodate his requests for a limited workload, which caused him to suffer an increased number of seizures. The district court ordered arbitration of his claims based on equitable estoppel. The court of appeals affirmed holding an at-will employment relationship may exist even if the parties have entered into an employment contract; as such, any alleged liability for tortious interference by appellee "must be determined by reference" to the parties' agreement. As appellee's liability depended on the agreement, the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying direct benefits estoppel to such claim. Additionally, although Texas does not recognize intertwined claims, the court of appeals, in applying an Erie guess, held the district court was correct in applying intertwined claims estoppel to compel arbitration as appellant treated appellees as a single unit in his pleadings, raising virtually indistinguishable factual allegations. Appellant's complaint in this action and his counter-demand in arbitration use almost identical language, substituting only the names of the defendants. Accordingly, the court of appeals affirmed arbitration. Hays v. HCA Holdings, Incorporated, Fifth Circuit, Case No.: 15-51002, 09/29/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District

Paxton v. Texas Department of State Health Services, 03-14-00594-CV (TexApp Dist 08/31/2016)

Appellee sued the Attorney General of the State of Texas, appellant, after his Open Records Division rejected the Department's request to withhold information collected by the Office of the Inspector General during an investigation into employee misconduct by two Department employees. Appellant had sought to withhold the information under a Government Code provision that makes information and materials "compiled by the [OIG] in connection with an audit or investigation" confidential and not subject to disclosure under the Public Information Act. Appellant determined that the confidentiality exception did not apply because the underlying OIG investigation did not concern "Medicaid or other health and human services fraud, abuse, or overcharges." The district court however interpreted the exception to disclosure created by the statutory grant of confidentiality did not apply and granted appellee's motion for summary judgment. Appellant's sole issue on appeal was that the district court erred in concluding that the OIG investigatory exclusion to disclosure created by §531.1021(g) extended to any subject. The court of appeals reversed holding the statutory language only permitted an exception when the audit or investigation involved "fraud, waste, and abuse in the provision and delivery of all health and human services in the state." Accordingly, as the purpose and context of the statute is clear, the court of appeals reversed. Paxton v. Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin Court of Appeals, Case No.: 03-14-00594-CV, 08/31/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth

City of Houston v. Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund, 14-14-00437-CV (TexApp Dist 09/08/2016)

In 1997, the Texas Legislature enacted Texas Revised Civil Statute Article 6243e.2(1) which established a firefighters' relief and retirement fund in each incorporated municipality with a population of at least 1.6 million and a fully paid fire department. Despite operating under the act for many years, appellant filed suit seeking a declaration that the statute establishing the current pension system for the City's firefighters was unconstitutional and violated four separate provisions of the Texas Constitution. Appellant argued the trial court's grant of the appellee's motion for summary judgment and denial of its motion for summary judgment was in error. The court of appeals affirmed and held the statute was constitutional. In particular, the court of appeals concluded the act was not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative duties to the Fund, as a public entity. Moreover, the court of appeals stated the act was not an unconstitutional local or special law and comported with the language and history of Texas Constitution Article XVI, §67(c). Accordingly, the court of appeals held appellant failed to establish the Act was unconstitutional, and the Fund established it was constitutional. Therefore, the trial court did not err by granting the Fund's motion for summary judgment. City of Houston v. Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund, Houston 14th Court of Appeals, Case No.: 14-14-00437-CV, 09/08/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

Carlton Energy Group, LLC v. Phillips, 01-09-00997-CV (TexApp Dist 08/30/2016)

The parties entered into an alleged financial contract to assist in the funding of exploration and prospecting for natural gas on a large parcel of land located in Bulgaria. Appellant/cross-appellee alleged appellee/cross-appellant tortuously interfered with its contract with non-party exploration company and thereby breached their contract. Appellant/cross-appellee challenged the trial court's judgment, entered after it accepted the trial court's suggested remittitur of the jury's actual damages award in lieu of a new trial, in appellant/cross-appellee's suit for tortious interference and breach of contract. In three issues on appeal, appellant/cross-appellee contended the trial court erred in suggesting a remittitur of $31.16 million in actual damages when factually-sufficient evidence supported the jury finding of actual damages of $66.5 million, setting aside the jury's alter ego finding, and not imposing joint and several liability on appellee/cross-appellant. In their cross-appeal, appellee/cross-appellant argued the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's award of actual damages or that it tortuously interfered with appellant/cross-appellee's contract. The court of appeals held the evidence as legally and factually sufficient to support the jury's liability findings and award of actual damages. Moreover, the court reversed the trial court's judgment ordering appellant/cross-appellee to recover only $31.16 million in actual damages and that the appellee/cross-appellants were jointly and severally liable for the actual damages. Carlton Energy Group, LLC v. Phillips, Houston 1st Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-09-00997-CV, 08/30/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District

Ragland v. BNSF Railway Company, 08-14-00094-CV (TexApp Dist 09/14/2016)

Appellant sued his former employer, appellee BNSF Railway Company, under the Federal Employers Liability Act claiming he suffered a work-related cumulative trauma injury to both knees that manifested in early 2010. He also claimed appellee made a negligent work assignment to him on August 2, 2010, knowing that he was having issues with his knees that day. Appellee moved for summary judgment asserting appellant's cumulative trauma claims were related to an injury he suffered in 2008 and were barred by the three-year statute of limitations. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the negligent work assignment claim, but erred on the cumulative trauma claims. The court held the evidence presented did not support appellant's negligent work assignment claim and was therefore proper to grant appellee's summary judgment. Particularly, appellant failed to demonstrate that he expressly informed appellee that his work was causing him problems. However, there remained a genuine issue of material fact on when the causes of action began to accrue as it related to the cumulative trauma injuries to both appellant's right and left knee. Accordingly, the court of appeals remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. Ragland v. BNSF Railway Company, El Paso Court of Appeals, Case No.: 08-14-00094-CV, 09/14/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

Wooters v. Unitech International, Inc., 01-15-00174-CV (TexApp Dist 08/30/2016)

Appellee sued two former employees when it discovered that those employees had stolen its trade secrets in preparation for launching a competing company. During the investigation, appellee learned that the employees had asked appellant, who was not one of its employees, to join them in forming a new company. Appellee subsequently sued appellant as well, alleging that he had conspired with the employees to breach their fiduciary duties, steal trade secrets, and to unlawfully convert appellee's property. A jury found in favor of appellant on the latter two claims, but found appellant conspired to breach the employees' fiduciary duties. Appellant argued that no evidence supported the jury's findings or the jury's damages award. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the finding of liability and rendered a take nothing judgment for appellee. The court of appeals held that appellant was not a party to the employees' employment agreement nor was he employed by appellee. As such, there would need to be some evidence to show that appellee knowingly participated in an unlawful breach of duty beyond lawful preparation to compete. The court of appeals that no such evidence was presented and therefore any evidence was legally insufficient to support the finding that appellant conspired to breach the fiduciary duties owed by the employees. Wooters v. Unitech International, Inc., Houston 1st Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-15-00174-CV, 08/30/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

WWW.URBAN.INC., v. Drummond, 01-14-00299-CV (TexApp Dist 08/30/2016)

Appellee signed an agreement whereby he agreed to "work exclusively through [appellant] in acquiring property" in the Houston market area for a six-month period. Under the terms of the agreement, appellee was entitled to commission based on the gross sales price of the property which would be payable hen the transaction closed or whenever appellee breached the agreement, whichever occurred first. Following appellee purchasing a home through another realtor during the six-month exclusive period, appellant filed a breach of contract claim to collect the commission and attorney's fees pursuant to the agreement. The jury found that both parties failed to comply with the agreement, but that appellant failed to materially comply first; the trial court rendered a final judgment whereby appellant would take nothing on its claims and awarded appellee attorney fees. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's judgment awarding attorney's fees holding appellee failed to properly segregate his fees with respect to the time his attorney spent on his third-party petitions. However, the court of appeals held the trial court did not err in refusing to award appellant attorney's fees under TDCA as he failed to timely plead for such relief or under the DTPA as there was some evidence that the claim was not groundless. WWW.URBAN.INC., v. Drummond, Houston 1st Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-14-00299-CV, 08/30/2016


Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston v. Rios, 01-15-01071-CV (TexApp Dist 09/01/2016)

Appellee filed suit against The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, appellants, claiming injury from allegedly defamatory statements, which he asserted resulted in, among other things, the withdrawal of an offer to work a second year residency with appellant. The individual doctors brought a motion to dismiss; the trial court denied dismissal. Appellants now bring this interlocutory appeal arguing the trial court was compelled to dismiss them from the suit based on immunity. "If a suit is filed under this chapter against both a governmental unit and any of its employees, the employees shall immediately be dismissed on the filing of a motion by the government unit." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §101.106(e). The Supreme Court of Texas has held that, in a plea to the jurisdiction for a party claiming governmental immunity, the party filing the plea bears the burden of establishing that it is a governmental entity. The court of appeals affirmed holding appellants presented no proof in their motions to dismiss that they were employees of UT Health as defined by the Act. Accordingly, they did not carry their burden of establishing a right to dismissal. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston v. Rios, Houston 1st Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-15-01071-CV, 09/01/2016


United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Dresser-Rand Co. v. NLRB, 15-60474 (5th Cir. 09/23/2016)

In 2007, petitioner and non-party CWA Local 313 sought to negotiate the renewal of the union-members' employment contract but could not reach an agreement. After a four-month strike, the parties had still not agreement on a contract. The union called off the strike and agreed to return to work without a contract. At that point, however, petitioner locked out the union employees, but reversed course a week later. Respondent held that the lockout violated the National Labor Relations Act. On appeal, the parties agreed that whether the lockout violated the Act was determined by petitioner's motivation: if the lockout was motivated by antiunion animus, it was illegal; respondent determined the lockout was so motivated. Petitioner sought review of the order arguing her post-lockout conduct was lawful and not motivated by animus. The court held that much of the later conduct did not violate the Act and the conduct that did violate the Act was not motivated by animus. Accordingly, these violations did not establish that the lockout was motivated by antiunion animus. Therefore, the court granted in part petitioners petition to deny enforcement of respondent's order. Dresser-Rand Co. v. NLRB, Fifth Circuit, Case No.: 15-60474, 09/23/16


Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

Austin v. Coface Seguro de Credito Mexico, S.A. DE, 01-15-00760-CV (TexApp Dist 09/15/2016)

Appellee obtained a judgment in Mexico and later registered it in Texas state court, using the debtor's full name, which includes a first and second surname. Appellee abstracted the authenticated judgment in the county records; the county clerk indexed the judgment using the second surname of the debtor and included the first surname among the debtor's other names. Later, appellee determined that the debtor owned a home in Texas and had sold the home to a third-party buyer. Appellee sought foreclosure of the home in satisfaction of its judgment lien. The buyer contested the lien arguing appellee was obligated to secure an index under the first surname listed in the abstract of judgment to enforce their lien on the property because the warranty deed that conveyed the property named the seller by his first name and first surname only. On appeal, the court was asked to determine whether difference in naming conventions nullify notice of an abstract of judgment. An abstract of judgment constructively notifies the public that a judgment lien exists that encumbers a piece of property. Because the abstract of judgment meets the statutory requirements pursuant to Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §52.001 and the debtor's full name was also found in the property's chain of title as indexed under both surnames, the court of appeals affirmed declaratory relief in favor of appellant. Austin v. Coface Seguro de Credito Mexico, S.A. DE, Houston 1st Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-15-00760-CV, 09/15/2016