Most Viewed Decisions

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Datatreasury Corp., 15-40905 (5th Cir. 05/19/2016)

Appellant holds several patents applicable to electronic check-processing systems. Following a settlement between the parties, appellee entered into a license agreement permitting appellee unlimited use of appellant's patented technology. To protect appellee from the risk that appellant would entered into a more favorable license with a later bank, the license agreement included a "most-favored licensee" clause. Appellant subsequently entered into an agreement with another entity prompting appellee to sue for breach of contract. The district court agreed and granted appellee a refund for the difference between the amount appellee paid and the lesser amount bargained for in the later license agreement. The court of appeals affirmed holding the contractual interpretation of the license agreement provided that appellee was entitled to a refund as it was to have the unlimited use of appellant's technology. Additionally, the most favored license provision did not contain any limiting language thereby contradicting appellant's argument that the court should consider the different usage between the parties. Because the language in the clause was clear and unambiguous, the court of appeals must apply it as written and denied appellant from introducing parole evidence to change the plain language. Accordingly, the district court's final judgment was affirmed.

JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. DataTreasury Corporation, Fifth Circuit, Case No.: 15-40905, 05/19/2016

15-40905
W. EUGENE DAVIS, CIRCUIT JUDGE

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District

El Paso County, Texas v. Vasquez, 08-15-00086-CV (TexApp Dist 05/05/2016)

This was an accelerated interlocutory appeal from a trial court order denying appellant's plea to the jurisdiction. Appellant hired appellee in August 2001; appellee took medical leave following a heart attack and contraction of tuberculosis. Despite a full recovery, appellee was transferred to a different unit where she was than discharged for violation of county practices and procedures. Although appellee signed a letter of recognition, she filed a petition claiming discrimination based on disability, retaliation, and violation of Chapter 21 when the county disclosed her confidential health information. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 91a and a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the entire lawsuit. The trial court denied the plea and this interlocutory appeal followed. A plea to the jurisdiction is a dilatory plea by which a party challenges the court's authority to determine the subject matter of a cause of action. Bland Independent School Dist. V. Blue, 34 S. W. 3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000) The court of appeals reversed the trial court and granted the plea to the jurisdiction holding appellee failed to exhaust her remedies by failing to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Texas Commission on Human Rights. Additionally, the court of appeals held the appellee failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish a retaliation claim. Finally, the court of appeals held appellee neglected to establish a prima facie cases that she was denied a reasonable accommodation under Chapter 21 and therefore could not substantiate a discrimination claim. El Paso County, Texas v. Mary Lou Vasquez, El Paso Court of Appeals, Case No.: 08-15-00086-CV, 05/05/2016

08-15-00086-CV
ANN CRAWFORD MCCLURE, CHIEF JUSTICE

Supreme Court of Texas

Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance v. White, 14-0086 (TexApp Dist 05/13/2016)

At issue here was a tenant's responsibility for property damage sustained in a fire that originated in a tenant-owned clothes dryer stuffed with dry, unwashed bedding and pillows. A jury failed to find the tenant negligent in causing the fire, but held the tenant contractually liable for the loss under the terms of the lease agreement. The tenant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, asserting several grounds for avoiding enforcement of the contract. The trial court granted the tenant's motion without state the basis and rendered a take-nothing judgment. In a split decision, the court of appeals affirmed, concluding the lease provision broadly and unambiguously shifted liability for repairs beyond legislatively authorized bounds and was therefore void and unenforceable. The supreme court agreed the lease language did not incorporate statutory carve-out provisions, but stated the contract was not unenforceable on public policy grounds because 1) the disputed lease provision can be enforced without contravening the property code and 2) the record did not conclusively establish the factual predicate necessary to preclude the enforcement. Therefore, the supreme court affirmed the court of appeals' judgment as to ambiguity, but reversed in part the lease provision was not void and unenforceable.

Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company, a/s/o Mirsan, L.P., d/b/a Sienna Ridge Apartments v. Carmen A. White, Supreme Court, Case No.: 14-0086, 10/13/2015

14-0086
EVA M. GUZMAN JUSTICE

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

Calleja-Ahedo v. Compass Bank, 01-15-00210-CV (TexApp Dist 05/03/2016)

Appellant sued appellee after the bank did not refund payment of an allegedly forged check and additional allegedly unauthorized transactions drawn on appellant's account. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted appellee's summary judgment and awarded it $49,186.65 in trial-level attorney fees and $60,000 in conditional appellate attorney fees. Alleging eight separate issues of abuse of discretion, appellant timely filed an appeal of the trial court's grant of summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed holding appellee failed to establish that its amended account agreement was ever effective as to appellant. Although both the Finance Code and the parties' original agreement allowed appellee to amend the deposit agreement, the court of appeals held appellee failed to establish that it did so in a manner allowed by either the code or the agreement. Specifically, appellee presented no summary judgment evidence that it mailed notice of the proposed amendments to appellant, that it included the proposed amendments with his account statement, or that it posted notice of the amendments in its offices. Additionally, because an imposter changed appellant's address with the bank, appellee failed to make the statements available to appellant pursuant to §4.406(f) of the UCC. Finally, the court of appeals held the record contained no evidence that appellant failed to exercise ordinary care that substantially contributed to the making of the forged checks at issue. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. 3.406(a) Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court was reversed and appellant issued a refund in the amount of the unauthorized withdrawals. Francisco Calleja-Ahedo v. Compass Bank, Houston 1st District Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-15-00210-CV, 05/03/2016

01-15-00210-CV
EVELYN V. KEYES JUSTICE

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

Radcliffe, v. Tidal Petroleum, Inc., 04-15-00644-CV (4th COA. 05/11/2016)

Appellants filed suit alleging appellee removed minerals from their mineral estate without permission; appellee moved for traditional and no-evidence summary judgment on the grounds that appellants submitted no evidence of any ownership interest in the subject tract. The trial court granted summary judgment without specifying the grounds for its decision and sustained objections to any late-filed summary judgment evidence. The court of appeals reversed and remanded holding appellants provided some evidence of ownership and appellee failed to conclusively disprove any essential element of appellants' claims. To prevail in a trespass-to-try-title suit, a plaintiff must prove a superior right to title and may do so by proving "a regular chain of conveyances from the sovereign." Martin v. Amerman, 133 S.W.3d 262, 265 (Tex. 2004) Appellees argued the deed records failed to show what happened to the reserved mineral interest upon the sovereign's death precluding appellant's successors-in-interest reserved interest. In response, appellants argued there was evidence of an unbroken chain of title, including affidavits, death and birth certificates. The court of appeals agreed holding that appellants proffered evidence of both a will and intestate succession showing a chain of conveyance of the mineral rights. As a result, the court of appeals held that appellee's continued removal of minerals from the property without consent established a bad faith trespass claim. Because appellants presented at least a scintilla of evidence of ownership, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. Brett Radcliffe, Robert Radcliffe, and Mamba Minerals, LLC v. Tidal Petroleum, Inc. San Antonio Court of Appeals, Case No.: 04-15-00644-CV, 05/11/2016

04-15-00644-CV
PATRICIA O. ALVAREZ, JUSTICE

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh

Tex Dept of Family and Prot. Servs v. Whitman, 11-15-00074-CV (TexApp Dist 05/12/2016)

During new employee training and continuing through employment, appellee alleged a colleague made several comments with sexual content, connotations, or references that made her feel uncomfortable. Appellee brought the incidents to her supervisor's attention and was instructed to "just ignore them"; appellee was subsequently discharged for failure to perform her job duties or meet the standards of job performance. Appellee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission alleging sexual harassment by appellant and was granted a right-to-sue letter. Appellee filed suit arguing two sexual harassment claims and a retaliation claim. The trial court denied appellant's plea to the jurisdiction and motion for summary judgment; on appeal, the court of appeals reversed and rendered. A plea to the jurisdiction is a dilatory plea, the purpose of which is to defeat a cause of action without regard to the merits of the claim. Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000) The court of reversed the trial court holding appellee failed to make a prima facie showing or raise a material issue of fact on her quid pro quo harassment claim as there was no evidence the employees had supervisory authority over appellee. Additionally, the court of appeals held appellee failed to provide evidence the employees harassed her because of her gender or that their actions affected a "term, condition, or privilege" of her employment which would result in a hostile work environment. Finally, appellee's complaint to her supervisory did not rise to the level of specificity as a required element of her retaliation claim, which was a jurisdictional requirement. Therefore, the trial court erred in denying appellant's plea to the jurisdiction. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services v. Wanda Whitman, Eastland Court of Appeals, Case No.: 11-15-00074-CV, 05/12/2016

11-15-00074-CV
MIKE WILLSON JUSTICE

Supreme Court of Texas

Linegar v. DLA Piper LLP, 14-0767 (TexApp Dist 05/27/2016)

Upon advice of respondent-law firm, petitioner obtained a loan from a self-directed retirement account for a third party in order to prevent a loan default which occurred during the third party's merger process. Petitioner subsequently sued respondent for legal malpractice; the trial court rendered judgment for petitioner based on a jury verdict. The court of appeals reversed holding petitioner lacked standing to sue the firm as he was not the holder of the defaulting loan and the retirement account trustee could have enforced the action. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed holding there was a causal connection between respondent's conduct and petitioner's injury as a result of said conduct. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that petitioner sought damages on claims of malpractice to him as an individual; the case was pleaded, tried and submitted to the jury on claims that respondent violated duties owed to petitioner and those violations proximately caused damages to him. The Supreme Court differentiated from prior court decisions where an individual would lack standing to sue when advice was provided to a company; here, petitioner alleges harm resulting from legal counseling to him as an individual. Therefore, the Supreme Court reasoned that petitioner, individually, had standing to make a claim against respondent. Chris Linegar v. DLA Piper LLP, Supreme Court, Case No.: 14-0767, 05/27/2016

14-0767
PHIL JOHNSON JUSTICE

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

Laguan v. Lloyd, 01-14-00693-CV (TexApp Dist 05/05/2016)

Appellees owned property in Sugarland, Texas which went to foreclosure sale in June 2012; appellant purchased the property at the foreclosure sale. Appellees subsequently sent a letter to appellant expressing their intent to redeem the property; appellant failed to respond. Appellees then filed suit alleging that they had attempted to redeem the property, but that appellant failed to comply with his obligations for the redemption. The trial court granted appellees motion for summary judgment holding they had the same title in the property that they had held before the foreclosure and required deposit with the court registry. Appellant argued the trial court erred by granting summary judgment because he presented proof that he provided written notice of the amounts that must be paid to redeem the property and appellees failed to pay within the requisite time. To prevail on a traditional summary judgment motion asserted under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure §166a(c), a movant must prove that there was no genuine issue regarding any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court of appeals reversed holding Texas Property Code §209.011 provided the 180-day time period a homeowner has in order to redeem the property. Evidence was presented on both sides of the aisle of request and response for redemption. At a minimum, the court of appeals held there was a fact question as to whether appellees substantially complied with §209.011 thereby rendering summary judgment improper. Giovanny Laguan v. Hilary J. Lloyd and Kimberly A. Lloyd, Houston 1st District Court of Appeals, Case No.: 01-14-00693-CV, 05/05/2016

01-14-00693-CV
LAURA CARTER HIGLEY JUSTICE

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

Kardell v. Acker, 04-15-00534-CV (4th COA. 05/04/2016)

Pursuant to decedent's wishes, his five children were to partition his property and mineral estate. Because one child already owned property, the five children executed four partition deeds which conveyed the surface estate and a contained virtually identical provision regarding the mineral estate. A dispute subsequently arose as to the conveyance and partition of the property; the trial court granted judgment declaration appellees owned an undivided non-participating one-fifth of the whole and entire royalty interest in oil, gas and other minerals in the real property. Appellants' timely appeal arguing the trial court erred in denying their summary judgment believing appellees only owned an undivided one-fifth of a one-eighth royalty interest. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court finding the four corners of the corrected warranty deed unambiguously conveyed the property interest to the children and specifically set forth the rationale for the correction. Additionally, the court of appeals stated the original property deed conveyed the specific interest to the grantees in all oil, gas and other mineral royalties as well as a future lease clause which recognized that a mineral interest shorn of the executive right and the right to receive delay rentals remains an interest in the mineral fee. Altman v. Blake, 712 S.W.2d 117, 118 (Tex. 1986). As such, as the correction deed unambiguously conveyed an undivided interest of the whole and entire royalty interest in mineral rights, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment. Patricia Jo Kardell v. Edwin V. Acker, Jr., San Antonio Court of Appeals, Case No.: 04-15-00534-CV, 05/04/2016

04-15-00534-CV
PATRICIA O. ALVAREZ, JUSTICE

Supreme Court of Texas

Christus Health Gulf Coast v. Carswell, 14-0362 (TexApp Dist 05/20/2016)

Decedent was admitted to petitioner Hospital complaining of severe pain in his right side. Following a prescribed pain medication, decedent was found lying across his bed unresponsive and without a pulse. Respondent heir sued claiming medical malpractice and negligence; three years later a third amended petition was filed alleging misconduct by hospital staff – no post-mortem facts related to the conducted autopsy were claimed. Following a jury trial, petitioner was found negligent only in its obtaining the respondent's consent for an autopsy. The respondent appealed arguing fraud claims fell under the health care liability claims and therefore barred by the statute of limitations as the claim was based on professional or administrative services directly related to health care. The supreme court held the post-mortem fraud claims were directly related to decedent's health care and its improper application. As such, the claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations and the claims did not relate back to the original petition date. Therefore, the supreme court held the post-mortem fraud claims related to health care and barred by the statute of limitations thereby affirming the court of appeals reversal of judgment.

Christus Health Gulf Coast (as an entity, d/b/a Christus St. Catherine Hospital, and formerly d/b/a/ Christus St. Joseph Hospital) v. Linda Carswell, Supreme Court, Case No.: 14-0362, 11/13/2015

14-0362
PHIL JOHNSON JUSTICE