A classic example of a “too soon” appeal appears in Bolden v. Fidelity Nat’l Title: “In the original petition, appellee sought both damages for breach of warranty of title and attorney’s fees. The trial court signed a default judgment awarding damages for breach of warranty of title. The default judgment is silent as to appellee’s claim for attorney’s fees. Because the claim for attorney’s fees remains pending, the judgment is not final.” No. 05-16-00398-CV (Oct. 14, 2016) (mem. op.)
The relator in the case of In re: Schindler Elevator complained that the trial court “refused to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law explaining the court’s reasoning for denying relator’s motion for leave to designate responsible third parties.” The Fifth Court found no abuse of discretion, noting that the RTP proceeding was not a “trial” within the meaning of the applicable rule, and that the relator had a remedy by direct appeal. No. 05-16-01172-CV (Oct. 10, 2016) (mem. op.)
If ever a case illustrated a trap for the unwary, it is IDA Engineering v. PBK Architects, in which the plaintiff sued exactly four years after the termination of its contractual relationship. Unfortunately, the invoices upon which its damage claim relied were issued before the contract termination, and the contracts contained this language about payment: “Invoices will be issued monthly, per percentage of completion or per phase and will be due upon issuance date.” (emphasis added). Accordingly, the claim was barred by limitations. No. 05-15-01418-CV (Oct. 4, 2016) (mem. op.)
- If the trial court does not have jurisdiction to rule on relator’s motion, the motion cannot be categorized as “properly filed” for purposes of a potential writ of mandamus to compel a ruling;
- And if the the trial court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the motion, “it logically follows that it does not have a ministerial duty to rule on the motion.”
In re: Guzman, No. 05-16-01109-CV (Sept. 29, 2016) (mem. op.)
In In re: Douglas D. Halofitis, No. 05-16-01047-CV (Sept. 27, 2016) (mem. op.), the Fifth Court gives a helpful roadmap for parties who seek to challenge a judgment of which they were given late notice. We know that trial courts usually lose plenary jurisdiction over a judgment within 30 days after the court signs the judgment, which is also the deadline for filing an appeal. But what if you don’t receive notice of the judgment?
Under Rule 306a, when a party does not receive notice or acquire actual knowledge of judgment within twenty days, the deadlines begin to run not from the signing of the judgment, but instead from the sooner of the date the party received notice or acquired actual knowledge of the judgment or 90 days after the judgment was signed. A few pointers to keep in mind:
- the 306a motion must be sworn and must establish the date of first notice or knowledge of the judgment and that this date was more than 20 days after the judgment was signed;
- the 306a motion, including any evidentiary supplements necessary to satisfy the procedural requirements of 306a(5), must be filed within the court’s plenary period as calculated from the date of first notice or knowledge of the judgment;
- the movant should seek an immediate evidentiary hearing on the 306a motion and obtain a finding of fact of the date of first notice or actual knowledge of the judgment;
- in no event will the periods begin to run more than 90 days after the judgment is signed, meaning that if you receive notice more than 90 days after the judgment is signed, your only avenue may be a restricted appeal or bill of review; and
- the 306a motion should be coupled with a post-judgment motion, e.g. motion for new trial, motion to reinstate, or motion to modify judgment. If you wait for a decision on your 306a motion, your post-judgment motion may end up being untimely even if your Rule 306a motion is successful because post-judgment motions must still be filed within 30 days of the date found to be the date of first notice or actual knowledge of the judgment.
A basic point, but one that bears frequent repetition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals concurrence ultimately cited by the Fifth Court is a quick and worthwhile read.: “As the party seeking relief, the relator has the burden of providing the Court with a sufficient record to establish his right to mandamus relief.” In re: Johnson, No. 05-16-01094-CV (Sept. 27, 2016) (mem. op.) (citing In re: Jones, No. 05-16- 00230-CV, 2016 WL 836835 (Tex. App.—Dallas March 4, 2016, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.) (citing Lizcano v. Chatham, 416 S.W.3d 862, 863 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011) (orig. proceeding) (Alcala, J. concurring))).
In its order denying a mandamus petition in the case of In re: Adelphi Group, the Fifth Court reminds: “Although parties may expend time and money if they are ordered to arbitration improperly, delay and expense—standing alone—will not render the final appeal inadequate. Further, mandamus as a remedy for review of orders compelling arbitration should be limited to the comparatively rare cases where the legislature has through statute expressed a public policy that overrides the public policy favoring arbitration.” No. 05-16-01060-CV (Sept. 22, 2016) (mem. op.)
The Fifth Court is the first appellate court in Texas to offer an extension of TAMES that allows attorneys to see non-public documents; here is the official announcement.
Beasley v. Richardson, while involving facts unique to pro se litigation, provides a valuable reminder about preservation with relation to the handling of a nonsuit: “Error in dismissing a case with prejudice cannot be raised for the first time on appeal and must be presented to the trial court. To preserve a complaint of error in a judgment for appellate review, Beasley was required to inform the trial court of his objection by a post-judgment motion to amend or correct the judgment or a motion for new trial.” (citations omitted). No. 05-15-01156-CV (Sept. 20, 2016) (mem. op.)
Happy fifth birthday to the sister blog, 600 Camp, which follows commercial litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.