Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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In this libel-by-implication case, a column written by Steve Blow and published by The Dallas Morning News (collectively, Petitioners) was reasonably capable of meaning that John and Mary Ann Tatum acted deceptively and that the accusation of deception was reasonably capable of defaming the Tatums. But because the accusation was an opinion, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners. The Tatum filed suit alleging libel and libel per se against Petitioners alleging that the column at issue defamed them. The trial court granted summary judgment for Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the column was “reasonably capable” of defamatory meaning and that the column was not a non-actionable opinion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the column’s accusation of deception was “reasonably capable” of injuring the Tatums’ standing in the community but that Blow’s implicit statement that the Tatum acted deceptively was an opinion and thus not actionable. View "Dallas Morning News, Inc. v. Tatum" on Justia Law

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Harris County, the employer of deputy constable Kenneth Caplan, was entitled to governmental immunity on Plaintiff’s claim that the County used tangible personal property when Caplan shot Plaintiff. Caplan was off duty and used his personal firearm when he struck and injured Plaintiff. Attempting to trigger the Tort Claims Act’s limited waiver of governmental immunity, Plaintiff alleged that the County’s use of tangible personal property caused the injuries she suffered when Caplan shot her. The trial court granted the County’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the case. The court of appeals found that Plaintiff failed to establish a waiver of the County’s immunity but remanded the case to allow Plaintiff to replied and conduct more discovery. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and rendered judgment for the County, holding that Plaintiff’s allegations failed to trigger the Texas Tort Claims Act’s waiver of the County’s governmental immunity, and neither further discovery nor repleading could cure this defect. View "Harris County, Texas v. Annab" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals erred in holding that the commercial-speech exemption applied so Defendant could not seek expedited dismissal under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Defendant hired Plaintiff, which provided “virtual assistant” services to businesses, to receive and fulfill customer orders placed through Defendant’s website. Defendant later accused Plaintiff of failing to follow its instructions on how to fill those orders and over-ordering products, demanding compensation for lost profits. When Plaintiff refused to pay, Defendant published statements about the parties’ dispute on various online platforms, including a personal blog, YouTube, and social media. Plaintiff sued for defamation. Defendant moved to dismiss the suit under the TCPA. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the commercial-speech exemption applied. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the TCPA’s commercial-speech exemption did not apply because Defendant’s allegedly defamatory statements did not arise out of his sale of goods or services or his status as a seller of those goods and services. Rather, Defendant’s statements constituted protected speech warning Plaintiff’s actual or potential customers about the quality of Plaintiff’s services. View "Castleman v. Internet Money Limited" on Justia Law

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The Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) applied to tort claims brought by a nonclient against an attorney based in part on statements the attorney made in open court on behalf of his client, and the attorney was entitled to dismissal under the TCPA. The trial court denied Defendant-attorney’s motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that the TCPA applied to the claims against Defendant, Plaintiff made a prima facie case for each element of his claims, and Defendant failed to prove his attorney-immunity defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the TCPA applies to protect an attorney’s in-court statements on behalf of his client during a judicial proceeding; and (2) assuming without deciding that Plaintiff carried his burden to make a prima facie case as to the elements of his claims against Defendant, Defendant was nevertheless entitled to dismissal under the affirmative defense of attorney immunity. View "Youngkin v. Hines" on Justia Law

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At issue in this statutory-construction case was the damages-cap and election-of-remedies provisions of the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) with respect to independent contractors performing essential governmental functions. Plaintiff, the daughter of a pedestrian who was struck and killed by a public bus in Fort Worth, brought claims under the TTCA against the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (FWTA), its two independent contractors, and the bus driver. The Supreme Court held (1) the TTCA’s damages cap applies cumulatively when, as in this case, an independent contractor performed essential governmental functions of a transportation authority; (2) the TTCA’s election-of-remedies provision extends to cover an employee of an independent contractor performing essential governmental functions; and (3) the transit defendants in this case were not entitled to attorney’s fees arising out of interpleader. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in favor of FWTA with respect to issues one and two, and affirmed the denial of attorney’s fees and remand to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Fort Worth Transportation Authority v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss the defamation claim filed against him, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the court of appeals, Defendant’s allegedly defamatory communications did relate to a “matter of public concern” as defined by the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Defendant moved to dismiss the defamation claim against him, arguing that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case to survive dismissal under the TCPA. The trial court did not rule on the motion to dismiss the defamation claim within the statutory period, so it was denied by operation of law. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the challenged communications did not related to a “matter of public concern.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant satisfied his initial burden to establish the applicability of the TCPA under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.005(b); and (2) therefore, the matter must be remanded for the court of appeals to decide whether Plaintiff established a prima facie case for each essential element of its defamation claim or whether Plaintiff established a valid defense. View "Adams v. Starside Custom Builders, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Plaintiff mandamus relief from trial court discovery sanctions in this personal injury case arising from a traffic accident. The trial court judge in Jim Wells County, where the case was pending, denied Plaintiff’s motion for protective orders regarding discovery sought from some of her medical providers. The custodians of the medical providers’ records were located in Bear County and were not parties to the lawsuit. After the Bear County district court judge issued his order granting the custodians protective orders, the Jim Wells County district court judge granted Defendants’ motion to exclude and ordered that certain testimony, medical records, and charges be excluded from the trial as sanctions. Plaintiff sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the requirements for mandamus to issue were satisfied. View "In re Carolina Garza" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on limitations, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the discovery rule. Plaintiff was injured when he was exposed to and burned by caustic chemicals while working at an oil well site. Less than two years later, Plaintiff sued several defendants. Plaintiff joined Defendant more than two years after he was injured but less than two years after he was diagnosed with cancer, which he attributed to the chemical exposure. Plaintiff argued that he sued Defendant in a timely manner because his cancer was inherently undiscoverable and that his cause of action did not accrue until he discovered the cancer. The court of appeals reversed the summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact about whether he knew or should have known the nature of his injury before his cancer diagnosis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals incorrectly applied the discovery rule and the latent occupational disease rule. View "Schlumberger Technology Corp. v. Pasko" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this negligence case arising from a motor-vehicle accident that occurred while a drilling-company employee was driving his coworkers from a drilling site to employer-provided housing after a shift, holding that the employer was not entitled to summary judgment on the injured employee’s (Plaintiff) vicarious-liability claim. Plaintiff filed suit against Employer, alleging that Employer was vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment for Employer, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employer was not entitled to summary judgment on either no-evidence or traditional grounds on Plaintiff’s vicarious-liability claim. View "Painter v. Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of the City of San Antonio’s plea to the jurisdiction based on governmental immunity from a suit for damages arising out of a collision between a car and a motorcycle. In her suit, Plaintiff alleged that City police officers were negligent in engaging in a high speed chase, that the City had actual notice of her claims, and that the City’s immunity was waived by the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). The trial court denied the City’s plea to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that there was a fact issue as to whether the City had actual notice of Plaintiff’s claims. The City appealed, arguing that the court of appeals applied an erroneous standard. The Supreme Court agreed and dismissed the cause for want of jurisdiction, holding that the City did not have actual notice that it was at fault in connection with the collision, as required by the TTCA for the City’s immunity to have been waived. Therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the claims. View "City of San Antonio v. Tenorio" on Justia Law