Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rule 13 Sanctions Order requires findings of bad conduct to hold up on appeal


$5,000 IN SANCTIONS WITHOUT EXPLANATION IN TRIAL COURT'S ORDER REVERSED BY DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS 

After notice and a hearing, rule 13 authorizes sanctions against a party who files a pleading that is both groundless and brought in either bad faith or harassment.[3] TEX. R. CIV. P. 13. No sanctions under rule 13 may be imposed except for good cause, the particulars of which must be stated in the sanction order. Id. We review a trial court's imposition of sanctions under rule 13 for an abuse of discretion. Cire v. Cummings, 134 S.W.3d 835, 838 (Tex. 2004); Arnold v. Life Partners, Inc., No. 05-12-00092-CV, 2013 WL 4553379, at *3 (Tex. App.-Dallas Aug. 28, 2013, pet. filed).

Here, regarding sanctions, the trial court's judgment states only that it orders attorney's fees of $5,000 as sanctions. The court did not make the required particularized findings of good cause to support sanctions under rule 13. Failure to comply with this clear directive is an abuse of discretion. King v. First Nat'l Bank of Baird, 161 S.W.3d 661, 663 (Tex. App.-Eastland 2005, no pet.); Tex.-Ohio Gas, Inc. v. Mecom, 28 S.W.3d 129, 135 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2000, no pet.). Thus, to the extent it ordered sanctions under rule 13, the trial court abused its discretion.
  • Footnote [3]: Rule 13 expressly provides that a general denial does not constitute a violation of the rule. TEX. R. CIV. P. 13.

COURT'S INHERENT POWER TO SANCTION AS ALTERNATIVE TO RULE 11 

Brandon argues that the sanctions can be upheld under the trial court's inherent power to impose sanctions.

A trial court has inherent power to sanction to the extent necessary to deter, alleviate, and counteract bad faith abuse of the judicial process, such as any significant interference with the court's administration of its core functions, including hearing evidence, deciding issues of fact raised by the pleadings, deciding questions of law, rendering final judgment, and enforcing its judgments. Cherry Petersen Landry Albert, 2014 WL 7076496, at *9.

When using its inherent power to sanction, the court must make findings, based on evidence, that the conduct complained of significantly interfered with the court's legitimate exercise of its core functions. Union Carbide Corp. v. Martin, 349 S.W.3d 137, 147 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, no pet.). The court made no such findings in this case, and thus the sanction order cannot be upheld under the court's inherent power to sanction. See id. at 148.

We sustain Gerardo's second issue.

SOURCE: FIFTH COURT OF APPEALS IN DALLAS - 05-13-01219-CV - 10/20/2014