Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
BILL OF REVIEW DEFINED - PROCEDURE EXPLAINED
“A bill of review is an independent equitable action brought by a party to a former action seeking to set aside a judgment, which is no longer appealable or subject to motion for new trial.” Baker v. Goldsmith, 582 S.W.2d 404, 406 (Tex. 1979). The judgment may be set aside “for sufficient cause.” Tex. R. Civ. P. 329b(f); Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 406. The complainant files a petition “to invoke the equitable powers of the court.” Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 408; In re K.M.S., 68 S.W.3d 61, 66 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2001), pet. denied, 91 S.W.3d 331 (Tex. 2002) (per curiam).
Generally, the bill of review complainant must prove “‘(1) a meritorious defense to the cause of action alleged to support the judgment, (2) which he was prevented from making by the fraud, accident or wrongful act of the opposite party, (3) unmixed with any fault or negligence of his own.’” Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 406–07 (quoting Alexander v. Hagedorn, 148 Tex. 565, 568–69, 226 S.W.2d 996, 998 (1950)).
If the complainant establishes prima facie proof of a meritorious defense, the court conducts a trial at which the merits of the underlying issue are effectively relitigated. Caldwell v. Barnes, 154 S.W.3d 93, 98 (Tex. 2004); Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 409. During the bill of review trial, “the parties . . . revert to their original status as plaintiff and defendant with the burden on the original plaintiff to prove his or her case.” Caldwell, 154 S.W.3d at 98; accord Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 407–08. The bill of review defendant—the original plaintiff—must prove, and may offer evidence to support, “his original cause of action.” Meece v. Moerbe, 631 S.W.2d 729, 729 (Tex. 1982) (citing Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 409). At the end of the proceeding, if the fact-finder decides the complainant (the original defendant) has proved his case to set aside the judgment, the trial court may vacate the prior judgment. See Baker, 582 S.W.2d at 409. And if the bill of review defendant (the plaintiff in the original proceeding) proves his original case, the trial court may “substitute a new judgment which properly adjudicates the entire controversy.” In re J.B.A., 127 S.W.3d 850, 851 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2004, no pet.); cf. Jordan v. Jordan, 907 S.W.2d 471, 472 (Tex. 1995) (per curiam) (citing Tesoro Petrol. v. Smith, 796 S.W.2d 705, 705 (Tex. 1990) (per curiam)).
SOURCE: 04-09-00040-CV (8/31/09) (San Antonio Court of Appeals)
A Bill of Review is not exactly a substantive cause of action, but nevertheless a means by which a court may grant EQUITABLE RELIEF (setting aside a default judgment that is no longer appealable). The Bill of Review, and its elements, thus fit within the scope of this blawg.
THE NATURE OF A BILL OF REVIEW AND REQUIREMENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PETITION IN A BILL-OF-REVIEW SUIT:
A bill of review is an independent equitable proceeding brought by a party to a former action who seeks to set aside a judgment that is no longer appealable or subject to a challenge by a motion for new trial. Caldwell v. Barnes, 154 S.W.3d 93, 96 (Tex. 2004) (per curiam).
ELEMENTS OF BILL OF REVIEW
To prevail, a bill of review plaintiff must prove: (1) a meritorious defense to the cause of action upon which the judgment is based, (2) which he or she was prevented from making by the fraud, accident, or wrongful act of the opposing party or official mistake, (3) unmixed with any fault or negligence on his or her own part. Caldwell, 154 S.W.3d at 96; Baker v. Goldsmith, 582 S.W.2d 404, 406-07 (Tex. 1979).
Additionally, bill of review relief is available only if a party has exercised due diligence in pursuing all adequate legal remedies. Wembley Inv. Co. v. Herrera, 11 S.W.3d 924, 927 (Tex. 1999). This due diligence requirement is distinct from the three bill of review elements and must be established before a complainant is entitled to seek bill of review relief. Narvaez, 127 S.W.3d at 321. “The inquiry traditionally used to determine whether a party has been diligent is whether the litigant and his counsel used such care as that which prudent and careful men would ordinarily use in their own cases of equal importance.” In the Interest of A.L.H.C., 49 S.W.3d 911, 916 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2001, pet. denied).
SOURCE: 04-09-00198-CV (9/23/09) (San Antonio Court of Appeals) (trial court's order granting bill of review reversed because petitioner did not exercise available remedies, i.e., direct appeal).
Default on Installment Payment Plan: SoL and accrual of claim for breach of a contract that requires payments at regular intervals
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
If the services of an attorney are retained and/or if any action at law or in equity is brought to enforce or interpret the provisions of this Agreement or to collect any monies due hereunder, the prevailing party shall be entitled to reasonable attorney's fees together with interest thereon at the highest rate provided by law in addition to any other relief to which he may be entitled at law or in equity.
WHAT DOES 'PREVAILING' MEAN? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO QUALIFY AS PREVAILING PARTY FOR FEE RECOVERY PURPOSES?
A "prevailing party" is a party who successfully prosecutes the action or successfully defends against it, prevailing on the main issue, even if not to the extent of its original contention. See Flagship Hotel, Ltd. v. City of Galveston, 117 S.W.3d 552, 564 (Tex. App.--Texarkana 2003, pet. denied); Dear v. City of Irving, 902 S.W.2d 731, 739 (Tex. App.--Austin 1995, writ denied). Because ADC successfully defended against Hertzberg's suit by obtaining summary judgment on his claims, ADC is the prevailing party. See Robbins v. Capozzi, 100 S.W.3d 18, 27 (Tex. App.--Tyler 2002, no pet.). Thus, [Defendant] is entitled to "reasonable attorney's fees together with interest thereon" as provided by the contract. Accordingly, the trial court's decision to grant [Defendant's] requests for attorney's fees and post-judgment interest was not an abuse of discretion.SOURCE: 03-07-00072-CV (9/11/09)
(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill required to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent on results obtained or uncertainty of collection before the legal services have been rendered.
Arthur Andersen & Co. v. Perry Equip. Corp., 945 S.W.2d 812, 818 (Tex. 1997).
STANDARD OF REVIEW OF ATTORNEY'S FEES AWARDS ON APPEAL
We review a trial court's decision to either grant or deny attorney's fees under an abuse-of-discretion standard, and we review the amount of attorney's fees awarded under a legal-sufficiency standard. See Ridge Oil Co., Inc. v. Guinn Invs., Inc., 148 S.W.3d 143, 163 (Tex. 2004); Aaron Rents, Inc. v. Travis Cent. Appraisal Dist., 212 S.W.3d 665, 671 (Tex. App.--Austin 2006, no pet.).
A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts without reference to any guiding rules and principles. Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985). To determine whether a trial court abused its discretion, we must determine whether the trial court's action was arbitrary or unreasonable. Id. at 242.
Because we review the amount of attorney's fees awarded under a legal-sufficiency review, we must view the evidence in a light that tends to support the disputed finding and disregard evidence and inferences to the contrary. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Canchola, 121 S.W.3d 735, 739 (Tex. 2003). If more than a scintilla of evidence supports the challenged finding, the legal-sufficiency challenge must fail. Id.SOURCE: 03-07-00072-CV (9/11/09)
[Appellee - Defendant] requests that we award it appellate attorney's fees as monetary sanctions against [Appellant - Plaintiff] for bringing a frivolous appeal. See Tex. R. App. P. 45 (authorizing appellate court to award prevailing party "just damages" upon determination that appeal is frivolous).
Standard for Award of Appellate Attorney's Fees as a Sanction
In determining whether an appeal is frivolous, we review the record from the appellant's viewpoint and decide whether the appellant had reasonable grounds to believe the judgment could be reversed. Smith v. Brown, 51 S.W.3d 376, 381 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2001, pet. denied).
Whether to grant sanctions for a frivolous appeal is a matter of discretion that an appellate court exercises with prudence and caution and only after careful deliberation in truly egregious circumstances. Goss v. Houston Cmty. Newspapers, 252 S.W.3d 652, 657 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.).
Although we have rejected [Appellant's] arguments on appeal, we cannot characterize the appeal as objectively frivolous. Accordingly, we overrule [Appellee's] request.SOURCE: 03-07-00072-CV (9/11/09)
The statute of limitations for a breach-of-contract action is four years from the date the cause of action accrues. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.051 (West 2008); Stine v. Stewart, 80 S.W.3d 586, 592 (Tex. 2002).
As a general rule, a cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when facts come into existence that authorize a party to seek a judicial remedy. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 211 (Tex. 2003 ). In most cases, a cause of action accrues when a wrongful act causes a legal injury, regardless of when the plaintiff learns of that injury or if all resulting damages have yet occurred. Id.In order to determine when [Plaintiff's] cause of action accrued, we must first look at the injury on which he based his cause of action and then determine when the facts underlying the cause of action came into existence. See id. SOURCE: 03-07-00072-CV (because there is no genuine issue of material fact that the Plaintiff filed suit more than four years after his cause of action accrued, the Austin Court of Appeals affirms the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the Defendant.)
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
When Is a Statement Actionable as Defamatory? Defamation defined:A statement is defamatory if the words tend to injure a person's reputation, exposing the person to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or financial injury. Colson v. Grohman, 24 S.W.3d 414, 421 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, pet. denied). Defense to Defamation Claim: The Statements Made the Basis of the Lawsuit Are Substantially True Truth is an affirmative defense to a claim for defamation. See Associated Press v. Cook, 17 S.W.3d 447, 452 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, no pet.). Similarly, a showing of substantial truth in a summary judgment case will defeat a defamation claim. McIlvain v. Jacobs, 794 S.W.2d 14, 15-16 (Tex. 1990). To determine substantial truth, we consider whether the defamatory statement was more damaging to the plaintiff in the mind of the average reader than a true statement would have been. McIlvain, 794 S.W.2d at 16; Barbouti v. Hearst Corp., 927 S.W.2d 37, 65 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1996, writ denied). This evaluation involves looking at the "gist" of the statement. McIlvain, 794 S.W.2d at 16; KTRK Television v. Felder, 950 S.W.2d 100, 105 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1997, no writ). If the underlying facts as to the gist of the libelous charge are undisputed, then we can disregard any variance with respect to items of secondary importance and determine substantial truth as a matter of law. McIlvain, 794 S.W.2d at 16; KTRK Television, 950 S.W.2d at 105-06. As stated previously, the truth of a statement is an absolute defense to a claim for defamation. See Hurlbut v. Gulf Atl. Life Ins. Co., 749 S.W.2d 762, 766 (Tex. 1987). The defense of truth does not require proof that the alleged defamatory statement is literally true in every detail; substantial truth is sufficient. Howell v. Hecht, 821 S.W.2d 627, 631-32 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1991, writ denied). If [Defendant] Pohl established, as a matter of law, the substantial truth of the statements about which the Pedens [Plaintiffs] complain, he is entitled to summary judgment. McIlvain, 794 S.W.2d at 15; Gustafson v. City of Austin, 110 S.W.3d 652, 656 (Tex. App.--Austin 2003, pet. denied). SOURCE OF ALL CASELAW SNIPPETS: Appellate opinion in 01-08-00373-CV (9/10/09) RELATED CONCEPTS: libel, slander, business disparagement, derogatory statements, reputation and reputational damages, standing in the community, goodwill, tortious interference
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
WHAT IS CONSIDERED ESTABLISHED WITHOUT A NEED FOR PROOF IN THE DEFAULT JUDGMENT CONTEXT?
In a no-answer default judgment, the failure to file an answer operates as an admission of the material facts alleged in the petition, except as to unliquidated damages. Holt Atherton Indus., Inc. v. Heine, 835 S.W.2d 80, 83 (Tex. 1992).
A claim for damages is liquidated if the amount of damages can accurately be calculated by the court from the factual, as opposed to the conclusory allegations in the petition and written instruments. Argyle Mech., Inc. v. Unigus Steel, Inc., 156 S.W.3d 685, 687 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2005, no pet.); see also Novosad v. Cunningham, 38 S.W.3d 767, 773 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2001, no pet.) (suit to recover amount due for professional services was liquidated claim proved by written instruments where plaintiff attached original instruments to verified petition and motion for default judgment).
When damages are unliquidated, the judge must “hear” evidence on the damages. See Argyle Mech., Inc., 156 S.W.3d at 687; see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 243. In contrast, “if the claim is liquidated and proved by an instrument in writing, the damages shall be assessed by the court, or under its direction, and final judgment shall be rendered therefor . . . .” Tex. R. Civ. P. 241.
SOURCE: 05-07-01449-CV (credit card debt suit)
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The traditional statute of frauds in Texas, currently at Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. § 26.01(a) (Vernon Pamph. 2008), provides that certain types of agreements, such as a promise to answer for the debt, default, or miscarriage of another, a contract for the sale of real estate, or an agreement which is not to be performed within one year of its making, are not enforceable unless the agreement, or a memorandum of it, is in writing and signed by the person to be charged or his authorized representative. See Footnote 5 However, equity will act to avoid the statute of frauds in circumstances where enforcing the statute would itself amount to a fraud. See Nagle v. Nagle, 633 S.W.2d 796, 799-800 (Tex. 1982); Birenbaum v. Option Care, Inc., 971 S.W.2d 497, 503 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1997, pet. denied) (“Before using equity to circumvent the statute of frauds, the Texas Supreme Court has consistently required a showing that fraud would result in not doing so.”). Those circumstances are limited, however, because otherwise the exceptions would render the statute meaningless:
The Statute of Frauds is the Legislature's directive that courts enforce promises covered by the statute only if such promises are in writing. Equity can avoid the strictures of that directive only by “some positive rule which will insure its exercise for . . . the prevention of an actual fraud as distinguished from a mere wrong . . . so surely as to leave the statute itself, through the exactness of the exception, with some definiteness of operation.”Nagle, 633 S.W.2d at 799 (quoting Hooks v. Bridgewater, 111 Tex. 122, 128, 229 S.W. 1114, 1116 (1921)).
Promissory estoppel and partial performance have been recognized as equity-based exceptions to the traditional statute of frauds. Promissory estoppel allows enforcement of an otherwise unenforceable oral agreement when (1) the promisor makes a promise that he should have expected would lead the promissee to some definite and substantial injury; (2) such an injury occurred; and (3) the court must enforce the promise to avoid the injury. Nagle, 633 S.W.2d at 800; “Moore” Burger, Inc. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 492 S.W.2d 934, 936 (Tex. 1972).
Promissory estoppel avoids the traditional statute of frauds when the alleged oral promise is to sign an existing document that satisfies the statute of frauds. See Nagle, 633 S.W.2d at 800 (discussing contract for sale of real estate provision of section 26.01); Exxon Corp. v. Breezevale Ltd., 82 S.W.3d 429, 438 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2002, pet. denied) (same); see also Birenbaum, 971 S.W.2d at 504 (promissory estoppel avoids statute of frauds only if oral promise “was to execute a document in existence that itself complied with the statute”; discussing statute of frauds formerly applicable to purchase of securities).
Under the partial performance equitable exception, an oral agreement that does not satisfy the traditional statute of frauds but that has been partially performed may be enforced if denying enforcement would itself amount to a fraud. Breezevale, 82 S.W.3d at 439; Carmack v. Beltway Dev. Co., 701 S.W.2d 37, 40 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1985, no writ) (discussing statute of frauds for agreements to pay a commission on sale or lease of real estate). The actions asserted to constitute partial performance must be “unequivocally referable” to the alleged oral agreement and corroborate the existence of that agreement; they “must be such as could have been done with no other design than to fulfill the particular agreement sought to be enforced; otherwise, they do not tend to prove the existence of the parol agreement relied upon by the plaintiff.” Breezevale, 82 S.W.3d at 439-40.
PROMISSORY ESTOPPEL AS BASIS FOR RELIEF
Promissory estoppel may be utilized to enforce a promise when a plaintiff justifiably and reasonably relies on the promise to his detriment, it was foreseeable that the plaintiff would rely on the promise, and injustice can only be avoided by enforcement of the promise. See Boy Scouts v. Responsive Terminal Sys., 790 S.W.2d 738, 742 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1990, writ denied).
A promise must be sufficiently definite to support promissory estoppel. Gillium v. Republic Health Corp., 778 S.W.2d 558, 570 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1989, no writ). A promise must also be more than speculation of future events, a statement of hope, an expression of opinion, an expectation, or an assumption. City of Beaumont v. Excavators & Constructors, Inc., 870 S.W.2d 123, 138 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 1993, writ denied). Lost profits are not recoverable under promissory estoppel; a plaintiff may only recover reliance damages. Fretz Constr. Co. v. Southern Nat'l Bank, 626 S.W.2d 478, 483 (Tex. 1981).
SOURCE: DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS - 05-08-00038-CV
Monday, August 31, 2009
REASONABLE RELIANCE ELEMENT
Fraud, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, and promissory estoppel all require reasonable and justified reliance upon a misrepresentation or promise. See Ernst & Young, L.L.P. v. Pac. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 51 S.W.3d 573, 577 (Tex. 2001) (fraud); TMI, Inc. v. Brooks, 225 S.W.3d 783, 792, 795 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, pet. denied) (fraudulent inducement); Ortiz v. Collins, 203 S.W.3d 414, 421 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, no pet.) (fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and promissory estoppel).
When the parties' written agreement addresses the substance of the oral statement and contains language precluding reliance on external representations, Texas courts find reliance on subsequent oral promises unreasonable. See Simpson v. Woodbridge Props., L.L.C., 153 S.W.3d 682, 684 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2004, no pet.) (holding that disclaimer of reliance clause in contract negated reliance on post contract oral misrepresentations); Atlantic Lloyds Ins. Co. v. Butler, 137 S.W.3d 199, 226 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. denied) (holding that reliance on misrepresentation that was easily refutable with reasonable diligence was not justified or reasonable where two opposing parties were engaged in litigation and negotiating from equal bargaining positions); DRC Parts & Accessories, L.L.C. v. VM Motori, S.P.A., 112 S.W.3d 854, 856, 858-59 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, pet. denied) (holding that reliance on both pre- and post-contractual oral representations, directly contradicted by express terms of contract, was not justified as matter of law); Airborne Freight Corp. v. C.R. Lee Enters., Inc., 847 S.W.2d 289, 297 (Tex. App.- El Paso 1992, writ denied) (finding that written contract containing ample cautionary language precluded exclusive reliance by reasonable businessperson on verbal statements contradicting written agreement).
SOURCE: Biosilk Spa, LP v. HG Shopping Centers, LP (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] May 8, 2008) (Yates) (fraud, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, and promissory estoppel, no reasonable reliance)
BRIEF CITE ON THE ELEMENTS OF FRAUD AS A COMMON-LAW CLAIM
In order to prove fraud, a plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant made a material representation that was false, (2) the defendant knew the representation was false or made it recklessly as a positive assertion without any knowledge of its truth, (3) the defendant intended to induce the plaintiff to act upon the representation, and (4) the plaintiff actually and justifiably relied on the representation, which caused the injury. Ernst & Young, L.L.P. v. Pac. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 51 S.W.3d 573, 577 (Tex. 2001).
SOURCE: Wood v. Texas Chiropractic College (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] July 24, 2008) (Jennings) (suit by student against private educational institution, DTPA claim, misrepresentation, summary judgment affirmed, no showing of reliance)