Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of a magazine’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s defamation claim under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Plaintiff, a private citizen who was the subject of a magazine article about her receipt of food stamps, sued the magazine, alleging that the magazine defamed her when it falsely accused her of committing welfare fraud. The magazine moved to dismiss the suit under the TCPA. The trial court denied the motion as to the defamation claim, granted it as to the other claims asserted by Plaintiff, and denied the magazine’s request for attorney’s fees. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Plaintiff was entitled to proceed on her defamation claim and that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal of the denial of attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals improperly relied on Wikipedia as authority in its opinion; (2) the lower courts properly found that dismissal of Plaintiff’s defamation claim under the TCPA was not warranted at this stage in the proceedings; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to award the magazine attorney’s fees in light of its dismissal of other claims. View "D Magazine Partners, L.P. v. Rosenthal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for Petitioner auto dealer, whom Respondent sued for negligent entrustment, and reinstated summary judgment for Petitioner. When Petitioner provided William Heyden a loaner vehicle, Heyden had been drinking. Eighteen days later, when he was legally intoxicated, Heyden drove the loaner vehicle into a truck driven by Respondent. Respondent sued Petitioner for negligent entrustment. Petitioner argued that an accident that occurs eighteen days after entrustment is too attenuated to constitute legal cause. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for Petitioner. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case, determining that fact issues regarding proximate cause remained. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner established that its providing Heyden a loaner was not a proximate cause of his injuring Respondent eighteen days later. View "Allways Auto Group, Ltd. v. Walters" on Justia Law

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A defendant may obtain dismissal of a suit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act alleging “a communication made in connection with a matter of public concern” even if the defendant denies making it. Plaintiffs sued Defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), claiming that Defendant exploited the tragedy of their son’s death by encouraging the criticism of their son’s obituary. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ action under the Texas Citizens Participation Act. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a defendant who denies making the communication alleged cannot invoke the Act. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) when it is clear from a plaintiff’s pleadings that the action is covered by the Act, the defendant need show no more; and (2) the communication in this case was not extreme and outrageous enough to support an action for IIED. View "Hersh v. Tatum" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, the company that constructed a scaffold from which Defendant fell, claiming that Defendant improperly constructed the scaffold and failed to remedy or warn of the dangerous condition on the scaffold. After a second trial, the jury found Defendant negligent and awarded Defendant almost $2 million in past and future damages. Defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that Plaintiff’s claim was improperly submitted under a general negligence theory of recovery. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment in Defendant’s favor, holding Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant sounded in premises liability, and a general negligence submission could not support Plaintiff’s recovery in a premises liability case. View "United Scaffolding, Inc. v. Levine" on Justia Law

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The employer under the circumstances of this case had no duty to control its employees. J.R.and Carlos worked as cashiers at a convenience store owned by Exxon Mobile Corporation. One evening, Carlos picked a fistfight with J.R. When Alfredo, J.R.’s father, entered to the store to pick up J.R., Carlos also started a fistfight with Alfredo. Alfredo was knocked down and complained he couldn’t breathe. Twenty-three days later he died from cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory failure, and renal failure. J.R. and his family (Plaintiffs) sued Exxon for wrongful death and survival damages. The jury found that Exxon’s negligent supervision of its employees, together with J.R. and Alfredo’s negligence, caused Alfredo’s death. The jury awarded Plaintiffs nearly $2 million in damages. The court of appeals remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment for Exxon, holding that an employer in a situation like the one presented in this case owes no duty to supervise its employees, and therefore, as a matter of law, Exxon was not liable to Plaintiffs. View "Pagayon v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

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This action stemmed from a “without cause” termination of Plaintiff’s five-year employment contract at the end of his third contract year. Plaintiff brought claims against his former employer, its chief executive officer, and its professional services company for, inter alia, breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the claims for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendants, holding (1) the employer was entitled to summary judgment on the breach of contract claim where the employer was not required to prove the reasons it terminated Plaintiff’s employment contract “without cause” an the relevant provisions of the contract were not ambiguous; (2) Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the tortious interference claim where Plaintiff presented no evidence of willful or intentional interference; and (3) the employer’s professional services company was entitled to Plaintiff’s tortious interference claim where it conclusively established its justification defense to the claim. View "Community Health Systems Professional Services Corp. v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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Darin Spassoff and 6 Tool, LLC, formerly known as Dallas Dodgers Baseball Club, LLC (the Dodgers), sued Stephen Bedford for libel and business disparagement, among other claims. The claims arose from Bedford’s act of posting on Facebook allegations that his wife had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the Dodgers’ batting coach. Bedford moved to dismiss all claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, asserting that Plaintiffs brought the claims to prevent him from engaging in constitutionally-protected activities. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed the judgment in regards to all claims but Plaintiffs’ libel claim, concluding that Plaintiffs established a prima facie case for each essential element of their libel claim. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment as to the libel claim, holding that Bedford’s statements were not defamatory per se, and the Dodgers did not establish damages by clear and specific evidence. View "Bedford v. Spassoff" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals misapplied the rule that, at trial, a presumption operates to establish a fact until rebutted but not in summary judgment proceedings. Petitioner sued Respondents (the Railway) for the wrongful death of her husband and minor son. Several family members joined in the action, and all the plaintiffs (collectively, Chavez) were represented by the same law firm. After a trial, a verdict was rendered for the defense, but the trial court granted Chavez’s motion for new trial. Counsel for both sides reached a letter settlement agreement. Chavez then fired the firm that had been represented her. The trial court rendered judgment on the settlement agreement. The Railway then filed the settlement agreement and sued for breach. Chavez asserted that she had not consented to the settlement. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Railway. The court of appeals affirmed because the record established that the settlement agreement was signed by one of her lawyers. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Railway did not meet its burden of establishing affirmatively that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Chavez’s law firm was authorized to execute the settlement agreement. View "Chavez v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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While the Supreme Court was asked in this case to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a viable cause of action in Texas, the court was not persuaded to consider it because Petitioners and cross-respondents, the Kinsels, had an adequate remedy in this case. In this case involving the sale of a ranch, the Kinsels sought damages for tortious interference with their inheritances, statutory and common-law fraud, and conspiracy. The jury found for the Kinsels on every claim. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s award of damages for tortious interference with an inheritance on the basis that neither the Texas legislature nor the Supreme Court has recognized that cause of action. On appeal, the Kinsels urged the Supreme Court to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a cause of action and uphold their recovery. The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that the facts of this case did not warrant an enlargement of this state’s body of tort law, as the law provided an adequate remedy in this case - a constructive trust imposed on the disputed inheritance. View "Kinsel v. Lindsey" on Justia Law

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When Respondent’s employer received a report that Respondent failed an employment-related drug test, the employer ceased assigning Respondent any work. Respondent filed this lawsuit against his employer, WHM Custom Services, Inc.; the owner of the refinery, Exxon Mobil; and the drug-testing administrator, DISA, Inc. , asserting various claims against each of the three defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants on all but one claim, which it dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed and reinstated three of Respondent’s claims against Exxon, four claims against WHM, and two claims against DISA. The Supreme Court reversed in part, vacated in part, and rendered judgment reinstating the trial court’s take-nothing judgment against Respondent, holding that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment for Exxon, WHM, and DISA. View "Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Rincones" on Justia Law