Media campaign = Texas jurisdiction

Two important concepts about personal jurisdiction were at issue in Celanese Corp. v. Salcedo Sahagun, a case about “Mexican nationals’ use of a Washington, D.C. publicist to disseminate defamatory statements directed at Texas and other markets as part of a national media campaign . . . .” The resolution of those questions turned in no small part on the nuances of how they were defined. The first question was whether a publicist was an agent (and thus, creating imputation) as opposed to an independent contractor; its resolution turned on whether the defendants “retained control over [her] manner and means of performance — regardless of whether they chose to exercise that right.” The second involved the reconciliation of cases applying Calder v. Jones; the Court approached that issue by focusing on “whether [defendants] intended to benefit from having the statements distributed in Texas, regardless of the route taken to get them there.” No. 05-16-00868-CV (Aug. 9, 2017) (mem. op.)

Forum selection: Welcome to Florida.

Congrats to my LPCH law partner Liz Ryan for a solid win in a forum dispute.

Krueger brought tort claims against his former employer, Pulse Evolution Corp. The first sentence of the dispute resolution clause in his employment agreement said that “[a]ny dispute under this Agreement shall be arbitrated” in Palm Beach County, Florida. The forum selection clause,  found much later in the long paragraph, said, “In the event that arbitration
cannot be compelled or in order to enforce arbitration,” exclusive jurisdiction lies in Port St.Lucie County, Florida. Krueger argued that the “under this Agreement” clause impliedly carried into the forum selection provision, but the Fifth Court disagreed:

“The modifying language ‘under this Agreement’ is found only in the arbitration clause, which is the first sentence of paragraph 25. The forum selection clause, found in lines 27–30 of paragraph 25, states that it applies to disputes in which arbitration cannot be compelled. Additionally, each clause selects a different county in Florida as the forum for dispute resolution. To give meaning to both the arbitration clause and the forum selection clause, the forum selection clause must refer to disputes that are not subject to the arbitration clause, that is, disputes that do not arise ‘under this Agreement.’ If the parties wanted this modifying language to apply to the forum selection clause, they could have said so.”

Krueger v. Pulse Evolution Corp., No. 05-16-00922-CV (July 21, 2017).

Fifth Amendment + Civil Litigation = Dismissal

In a topic also addressed on 600Camp today, the interplay of criminal proceedings and civil litigation can be challenging. The conclusion of Dunne v. Brinker Texas, Inc. summarizes one potential result: “Under the particular facts of this case, the only possible remedial measure that could have protected Dunne’s Fifth Amendment privilege was an abatement. But an abatement could not cure the prejudice Chili’s had already suffered from being unable to identify fact witnesses for the more than a year that had passed since it first requested that information. In addition, there was no indication how long the case might sit in limbo, when trial might be, and whether Dunne would continue to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the event of an appeal. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in striking Dunne’s pleadings and therefore affirm.” No. 05-16-00496-CV (Aug. 10, 2017).

A plague on both your venues . .

plagueIn a construction dispute about work performed in Johnson County, Plainitff Brown said venue was proper in Dallas County because Defendant Ken-Do had a principal office there. Ken-Do argued that venue was proper in Ellis County.

  • The Fifth Court rejected Brown’s argument, finding that his only probative evidence related to Ken-Do’s post office box in Dallas, which “at most, . . . showed someone on behalf of Ken-Do retrieved its mail in Dallas County, not that a decision maker did so.”
  • But the Court also rejected Ken-Do’s position, which relied on its registered office in Ellis County: “A registered office is nothing more thatn the location an entity has designated where it can be served with legal process. It does not show the principal decisionmakers of the entity conducted its daily affairs from that location.”

 

Accordingly, the Court reversed the final judgment below, and remanded “to conduct further proceedings on the issue of venue.” Ken-Do Contracting, LP v. F.A. Brown’s Construction, LLC, No. 05-16-00373-CV (Aug. 7, 2017) (mem. op.)

 

See you in Germany –

german flagA dispute arose in Dallas among Theilert Aircraft, a German maker of aircraft engine parts; Bruno Kübler, its “insolvency adminstrator” under German law; Superior Air Parts, a former customer of Theilert; and Technify Motors, the purchaser of Theilert’s assets in the Germany insolvency proceeding. Kübler sought a writ of mandamus to compel enforcement of a forum selection clause in the Theilert-Technify sales agreement (“This Agreement is subject to the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany. To the extent legally permitted, exclusive place of jurisdiction is the seat of the Insolvency Debtor [in Germany].”) The Fifth Court agreed, finding that (1) the “extent legally permitted” language did not make the clause permissive instead of mandatory, (2) the claims between Technify and Kübler arose from the sales agreement, and (3) the potential for parallel litigation between Superior and Technify in Dallas did not overcome the policy in favor of enforcing a valid, relevant forum provision. In re: Kübler, No. 05-16-01443-CV (Aug. 4, 2017). (The Court also addressed and rejected a theoretical issue about the enforceability of a similar clause under German law, finding it irrelevant under the current framework used in Texas courts.)

Leak Evidence = Triable Fact Issue

leaky faucetIn a time of much furor about “leaks” to the media, the Fifth Court addressed a more traditional form of “leak” in Allen v. State Farm Lloyds, reversing a directed verdict for the insurer in a coverage dispute about a homeowners’ “Water Damage Endorsement.” In a detailed opinion, the Court found that the plaintiffs’ experts made legitimate, non-conclusory points about whether home damage was caused by plumbing leaks, and thus whether “deterioration” occurred within the meaning of the Endorsement. In a footnote, the Court also reminds of the importance of moving to strike allegedly improper expert testimony, and continuing to assert the original objection as the testimony unfolds at trial. No. 05-16-0018-CV (Aug. 1, 2017) (mem. op.)

“Important Industry News Alert” = Defamation?

slapp graphicSecurus sued GTL for defamation and business disparagement, alleging that two “Important Industry News Alert” emails from GTL misrepresented the status of certain patents. The Fifth Court reversed the denial of GTL’s anti-SLAPP motion, finding that Securus failed to show that the “commercial speech” exception to the statute applied, and that substance of the emails was either opinion, or too general to have led a reasonable person to confldue that they addressed “any particular facility or recipient.” As to the commercial speech exception, the Court expressly declined to follow a “four prong” test followed by Houston’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Newspaper Holdings, Inc. v. Crazy Hotel Assisted Living, Ltd., 416 S.W.3d 71 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.[ 2013, pet. denied), concluding that this test over-relied on a statute unique to California. Global Tel*Link v. Securus Corp.. Securus Corp., No. 05-16-01224-CV (July 31, 2017) (mem. op.)