Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a petition for writ of mandamus sought by the Diocese of Lubbock, as relator, asserting that ecclesiastical abstention prohibits the trial court from assuming jurisdiction over a suit brought by one of its ordained deacons against the Diocese and that, therefore, the trial court should have granted the Diocese's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that dismissal of the deacon's underlying lawsuit was required.This lawsuit arose out of an investigation by the Diocese into its clergy and the inclusion of the deacon's name on a list of the Diocese's clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, as well as the Diocese's public statements regarding the list following its release to the Diocese's public website. The court of appeals concluded that the Diocese's investigation lost ecclesiastical protection when it related to the issue of sexual abuse, which is not strictly and purely ecclesiastical. The Supreme Court granted the Diocese's petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to dismiss the deacon's underlying lawsuit, holding that exercising jurisdiction over the underlying case would encroach on the Diocese's decision to investigate its clergy consistent with its internal policies. View "In re Diocese of Lubbock" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's underlying interlocutory order denying a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003, and the judgment of the court of appeals denying the Diocese of Lubbock's mandamus petition, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to proceed in the underlying litigation.The claims at issue arose out of the Diocese's inclusion of Jesus Guerroro's name on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. Guerroro sued, claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Diocese filed a plea to the jurisdiction and followed the plea with a motion to dismiss under the TCPA. The trial court denied both. The court of appeals denied the Diocese's mandamus petition and affirmed the trial court's TCPA order with respect to the defamation claim. The Supreme Court vacated the orders below, holding (1) the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over Guerroro's suit; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred by not sustaining the Diocese's plea to the jurisdiction and dismissing the underlying case. View "Diocese of Lubbock v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the trial court denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to nine of thirteen allegedly defamatory statements, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to the nine disputed statements.The court of appeals concluded that only four of thirteen statements submitted to the jury in a nonsegregated jury question met the requirements of the Defamation Mitigation Act (DMA) and reversed and remanded for a new trial with respect to only those four defamation claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the DMA provides of the abatement of claims and loss of exemplary damages, rather than dismissal; and (2) because that remedy was available to Defendant when Plaintiff amended his complaint to add the nine disputed statements, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to those claims. View "Hogan v. Zoanni" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a writ of mandamus and ordered the trial court to vacate its order denying K&L Auto Crushers' motion for reconsideration, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by denying K&L Auto's requested discovery and that K&L Auto had no adequate remedy by way of appeal.Kevin Walker, who was injured in a motor-vehicle collision with a tractor-trailer rig driven by Thomas Gothard, sued Gothard and his employer, K&L Auto. K&L Auto served subpoenas on Walker's healthcare providers requesting production of information related to their billing practices and rates. Three of the providers filed motions to quash the subpoenas on several grounds. The trial court quashed the subpoenas without explanation. K&L Auto moved for reconsideration, stating that it was willing to enter into a protective order and narrow its requests. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus, holding that the information sought through K&L Auto's narrowed requests was relevant and that the trial court abused its discretion by completely denying discovery of that information. View "In re K&L Auto Crushers, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that an attorney's pre-suit efforts to publicize allegedly defamatory statements are shielded from liability by either attorney immunity or the judicial-proceedings privilege, holding that the court of appeals erred as to this issue.Landry's, Inc. sued Defendants for defamation, business disparagement, tortious interference, abuse of process, trespass, and civil conspiracy. The trial court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the judicial-proceedings privilege immunized Defendants from liability for the allegedly defamatory statements. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the dissemination of the allegedly defamatory statements was not protected by the judicial-proceedings privilege, nor did the privilege cover other publicity statements; (2) attorney immunity did not bar Landry's defamation claims; and (3) the court of appeals correctly affirmed the dismissal of the business disparagement and tortious interference claims. View "Landry's, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to render judgment in favor of Insurer on the jury's verdict, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to render judgment on the verdict.Insured sought underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits from Insurer. Insurer in this case declined to participate in a jury trial to establish the at-fault motorist's liability and demanded a separate trial on its liability under the UIM policy. Before trial on the UIM claim, the court commenced a jury trial on Insured's negligence claim against the at-fault motorist. The parties settled and the claim was dismissed without rendition of judgment on the jury's verdict. Insurer then argued that a separate trial on the UIM claim was no longer necessary because of the jury's findings and the settlement payment. The trial court denied Insurer's motion for judgment based on the jury verdict from the negligence trial. Insurer sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) collateral estoppel did not bind Insured to a verdict that was not reduced to judgment; and (2) Insurer's post-dismissal consent to be bound by the negligence suit's outcome did not make the negligence verdict enforceable against Insured in the contract suit. View "In re USAA General Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a petition for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order granting a motion to strike a counteraffidavit served under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 18.001 and precluding the offering party from contesting the reasonableness of the subject medical expenses at trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion.In granting the motion to strike, the trial court concluded that the counteraffidavit failed to comply with the requirements of section 18.001. The court then prohibited the offering party from testifying regarding the reasonableness and necessity of the medical bills. Petitioner petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the trial court erred by striking the counteraffidavit and by granting relief that found no legal basis in section 18.001 for the purported failure to comply with the statute. View "In re Allstate Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals in this premises liability case, holding that volunteers working in a third-party vendor's booth at a festival were licensees and not invitees of the landowner.Plaintiffs were the parents of four teenage volunteers at the San Lorenzo Church's annual festival. The teenagers were injured when a fire broke out in the interior of the booth they were working in. The trial court rendered a take-nothing judgment on the jury's verdict failing to find that the Church negligently caused the volunteers' injury or that the Church controlled the injury-causing activity. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the volunteers were the Church's invitees as a matter of law and that the verdict for the Church was against the preponderance of the evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the volunteers were licensees of the Church rather than invitees; and (2) Plaintiffs did not show either that the evidence conclusively established that the Church breached its duty to the volunteers as licensees or that the trial court otherwise committed reversible error. View "Catholic Diocese of El Paso v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment for Defendant in this workers' compensation case, holding that Plaintiff qualified as Defendants' employee under the Workers' Compensation Act, and therefore, the Act's exclusive remedy provision barred Plaintiff's claims.Plaintiff was an employee of a temporary staffing agency when he was injured while on assignment to a client of the agency. The staffing agency provided workers' compensation benefits. Plaintiff then sued Defendant, the client for whom he performed the work, alleging common-law negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that summary judgment for Defendant was appropriate. View "Waste Management of Texas, Inc. v. Stevenson" on Justia Law