Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Texas Supreme Court
HMC Hotel Props. II Ltd. P’ship v. Keystone-Texas Prop. Holding Corp.
Keystone-Texas Property Holding Corporation owned the Rivercenter Mall and the ground beneath the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk hotel. Keystone leased the hotel land to Petitioners, who owned and operated the hotel. In 2004, Keystone put the two properties up for sale. After Keystone found a prospective buyer, Petitioners informed Keystone they were interested in buying the land and were not ready to waive their rights under the lease. The deal to sell the properties fell through, and Keystone sued Petitioners for actions Keystone believed scuttled the deal. A jury found for Keystone on all issues and awarded damages for slander of title and tortious interference with a contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no evidence Petitioners caused any damages to Keystone. View "HMC Hotel Props. II Ltd. P'ship v. Keystone-Texas Prop. Holding Corp." on Justia Law
City of Watauga v. Gordon
Russell Gordon was stopped by City of Watauga police officers and arrested. Gordon subsequently sued the City for injuries to his wrists caused by the officers' use of handcuffs. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that it was immune from suit under the intentional-tort exception to the Tort Claims Act’s governmental immunity waiver. The Act waives sovereign immunity for certain negligent conduct but does not waive immunity for claims arising out of intentional torts, such as battery. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the underlying claim was for negligence, and therefore, the City was not entitled to immunity. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding that the underlying claim was for battery, not negligence, and the City’s governmental immunity had not been waived for this intentional tort. View "City of Watauga v. Gordon" on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Injury Law, Texas Supreme Court
Alexander v. Walker
Plaintiff brought suit in state court against two county sheriff’s department deputies stemming from the officers’ conduct incident to Plaintiff’s arrests. Plaintiff then brought suit in federal court against the county and county sheriff alleging the same tort claims she had made against the officers, based on vicarious liability principles, and alleging violations of her civil rights. In the state court action, the trial court denied the officers’ motion for summary judgment under the Texas Tort Claims Act’s (TTCA) election-of-remedies provision. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment in favor of the officers, holding (1) Plaintiff’s suit on the officers was based on the conduct within the general scope of the officers’ employment and could have been brought under the TTCA against the government, and therefore, Plaintiff’s suit was against the officers in their official capacity only; and (2) because the officers were sued in their official capacities, they were entitled to dismissal under the TTCA’s election-of-remedies provision. View "Alexander v. Walker" on Justia Law
Stinson v. Fontenot
Petitioner filed an action in state court against Respondent, a county sheriff’s deputy, arising from an incident in which Petitioner was arrested at her home. Petitioner subsequently filed an action in federal court arising out of the same incident against the county and the former county sheriff. The two cases were consolidated in federal court. The federal court dismissed the federal claims against the county and the sheriff and then remanded the tort claims against Respondent. The trial court denied Respondent's motion for summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Petitioner’s suit against the county in federal court entitled Respondent to dismissal under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 101.106(a). The Supreme Court affirmed but for different reasons, holding that Petitioner’s claims against Respondent should have been dismissed under subsection (f) of the Texas Tort Claims Act’s election-of-remedies provision. View "Stinson v. Fontenot" on Justia Law
Waste Mgmt. of Tex., Inc. v. Tex. Disposal Sys. Landfill, Inc.
Waste Management of Texas, Inc. (“WMT”) and Texas Disposal Systems Landfill, Inc. (“TDS”) competed for waste-disposal and landfill-services contracts with two Texas cities. During the bidding process, WMT anonymously published a community “Action Alert” claiming that TDS’s landfills were less environmentally sensitive than they actually were and as compared to other area landfills. TDS sued WMT for defamation. After a second trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of TDS, awarding it $450,592 for expenses, $5 million for injury to reputation, and $20 million as exemplary damages. The trial court treated the $5 million award for injury to reputation as non-economic damages for purposes of the statutory cap on exemplary damages and rendered an exemplary damage award of approximately $1.6 million. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a corporation may suffer reputation damages, and such damages are non-economic in nature for purposes of the statutory cap on exemplary damages; (2) the evidence in this case was not sufficient to support the award of reputation damages; and (3) TDS was entitled to exemplary damages, but the amount must be recalculated. View "Waste Mgmt. of Tex., Inc. v. Tex. Disposal Sys. Landfill, Inc." on Justia Law
Amedisys, Inc. v. Kingwood Home Health Care, LLC
Plaintiff and Defendant were competitors. Plaintiff sued Defendant for tortious interference with Plaintiff’s non-solicitation agreements with employees. Five days after receiving a settlement offer from Defendant, Plaintiff filed its designation of expert witnesses. After Defendant filed its own expert designations, Plaintiff sent a letter “accepting” Defendant’s settlement offer. Defendant refused to pay the previously agreed-to amount based on fraudulent inducement and failure of consideration. Plaintiff amended its pleadings to assert a breach of contract claim based on the alleged settlement agreement. The trial court granted Plaintiff’s summary judgment motion on the breach of contract claim. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that no settlement agreement existed because Plaintiff had not accepted all of the offer’s material terms. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the evidence established that Plaintiff accepted Defendant’s offer. Remanded. View "Amedisys, Inc. v. Kingwood Home Health Care, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Injury Law, Texas Supreme Court
Sawyer v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
Most of the employees at a La Porte unit (“Unit”) of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (“DuPont”) were covered by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). When DuPont announced plans to spin off part of its operations, including the Unit, into a wholly owned subsidiary, DuPont Textiles and Interiors (“DTI”), almost all of the Unit employees moved to DTI, even though the CBA gave the employees the right to transfer to other DuPont jobs. DuPont subsequently sold DTI to Koch Industries, which reduced the former DuPont employees’ compensation and retirement benefits. Several of the former DuPont employees sued DuPont for fraudulently inducing them to terminate their employment and accept employment with DTI by misrepresenting that DTI would not be sold. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified questions of law to the Texas Supreme Court, which answered by holding (1) at-will employees cannot bring an action against their corporate employer for fraud that is dependent on continued employment; and (2) employees covered under a cancellation-upon-notice CBA that limits the employer’s ability to discharge its employees only for just cause cannot bring Texas fraud claims against their employer based on allegations that the employer fraudulently induced them to terminate their employment. View "Sawyer v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law, Texas Supreme Court
Rio Grande Valley Vein Clinic, P.A. v. Guerrero
Plaintiff sued Defendant, which provided laser hair removal services, for negligence after she allegedly suffered burns and scarring on her face and neck while receiving laser hair removal treatments. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss because Plaintiff had not served an expert report as required by the Medical Liability Act for health care liability claims. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff did not rebut the presumption that her claim for improper laser hair removal was a health care liability claim, and therefore, Plaintiff’s failure to serve an expert report precluded her suit. View "Rio Grande Valley Vein Clinic, P.A. v. Guerrero" on Justia Law
Posted in: Health Law, Injury Law, Medical Malpractice, Texas Supreme Court
In re Health Care Unlimited, Inc.
The estate and survivors of Belinda Valdemar sued Health Care Unlimited, Inc. (HCU) and its employee, Edna Gonzalez, after Valdemar died as a result of an automobile accident. Valdemar was a passenger in a vehicle that Gonzalez was driving at the time of the accident. The jury agreed that Gonzalez negligently caused the accident but found that Gonzalez was not acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, and therefore, HCU was not vicariously liable. Valdemar’s survivors filed a motion for a mistrial, alleging that the presiding juror engaged in juror misconduct by communicating with an HCU employee during breaks while the jury was deliberating. The trial court granted the motion. HCU petitioned the court of appeals for mandamus relief, which was denied. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in granting a new trial, where the facts in this case, without more, did not support a finding that the communications between the juror and the HCU employee probably caused injury. View "In re Health Care Unlimited, Inc. " on Justia Law
In re Whataburger Rests. LP
Plaintiffs filed a premises liability suit against Defendant, Whataburger Restaurants LP, for injuries sustained in a fight outside of Defendant’s restaurant. The jury rendered a 10-2 verdict in favor of Defendant, and the trial court entered a take-nothing judgment based on the jury’s verdict. Plaintiffs filed a motion for new trial, asserting that one of the ten majority jurors had committed misconduct when she failed to disclose prior to trial that she had previously been a defendant in a lawsuit. The trial court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for new trial on the ground that Plaintiffs were denied the opportunity to question or strike the juror in light of the missing information. Defendant filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the court of appeals, which was denied. Defendant sought mandamus review in the Supreme Court. The Court conditionally granted the petition, holding that because the record contained no competent evidence that the juror’s nondisclosure resulted in probable injury, and the only competent evidence supported that it did not, the trial court abused its discretion in granting a new trial. View "In re Whataburger Rests. LP" on Justia Law