Be careful what you collect . . .

In Cruz v. Ghani, a judgment creditor executed on the judgment debtor’s condominium – realizing a sale price of $25,000, despite a market value of $217,500 – only to have the judgment later reversed on appeal. In the ensuing lawsuit about wrongful execution, the (former) judgment debtor prevailed and won judgment for the market value. The trial court required a supersedeas bond for the full amount and the Fifth Court affirmed. It concluded that the purpose of such an award was to compensate for loss, and thus did not fall within a line of authority holding that awards for equitable disgorgement do not have to be bonded, as they “are not based on an actual pecuniary loss suffered by the plaintiff, but on the defendant’s ill-gotten gains.” No. 05-17-00566-CV (Jan. 17, 2018) (mem. op.)

No record? No error.

Appellant sought a new trial based on the lack of a reporter’s record from the key summary judgment hearing, citing Tex. R. App. P. 13.1 and 34.6(f). Neither citation worked. As to Rule 13.1, which lists the duties of a court reporter, “[t]he Texas Supreme Court has held that creating a reporter’s record is neither necessary nor appropriate to the purposes of a summary judgment hearing.” (citation omitted). And Rule 34.6(f), which “provides that an appellant is entitled to a new trial if a significant exhibit or portion of a reporter’s record is lost or destroyed,” was inapplicable because “[b]oth parties acknowledge a reporter’s record was never made.” Lynch v. O’Hare,  No. 05-17-00175-CV (Jan. 18, 2018) (mem. op.)

Be prompt in seeking mandamus relief, but not too prompt.

A court of appeals can grant mandamus relief if a trial court refuses to rule within a reasonable time. (A good, recent example is In re Mesa Petroleum Partners LP, an El Paso case I was involved with.) But January 2018 is too soon to complain about alleged inaction in connection with rulings made on December 15, 2017 – in that situation, “[t]o the extent relator seeks a separate order in his motion to clarify, the trial court has not been given a reasonable time in which to sign such an order and relator has not presented a record showing that he has requested an order from the trial court.” In re Venkartaman, No. 05-17-01474-CV (Jan. 9, 2018) (mem. op.)

“Analytical gap” defeats causation in legal malpractice case – UPDATED

Plaintiff alleged that his counsel’s negligence as to the handling of evidence about certain property appraisals led to an unfavorable settlement. The Fifth Court affirmed summary judgment for the defense, noting that the appraisals only became relevant if a particular ruling was made on a threshold legal issue, and the plaintiff’s expert affidavit “contained no analysis of the law or the facts relating to” whether “[P]laintiff would have prevailed on the payment issue at trial.” “Therefore a ‘fatal analytical gap’ in [the expert’s affidavit divide his recitation of the facts from his opinion of the ‘true value’ of the case, and we ‘are simply left to take his word’ that the settlement was excessive.”  Barnett v. Schiro, No. 05-16-00999-CV (Jan. 9, 2018) (mem. op.)

For your form file – entirety of successful MSJ in note case.

The following summary judgment motion was granted, and the Fifth Court affirmed, rejecting challenges to the level of detail in the motion (as well as the non-respondent’s citation to evidence not expressly incorporated in the response):

_____________________________________________________________________

Summary of the Motion

Plaintiffs seek summary judgment on their claims against Thomas J. Granata, II because he guaranteed the debt of Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC. The default judgment was entered against Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC on June 1, 2016. Mr. Granata guaranteed the amount of indebtedness of Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC. Therefore, Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment against Mr. Granata.

Undisputed Facts

Mr. Granata guaranteed the promissory note made by Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC. Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC. only paid $50,000 of the note via a third party. The note was to be repaid by October 26, 2015. No payment has been forthcoming on said promissory note cents [sic] the $50,000 payment was made by the third-party. On June 1, 2016, the court entered a default judgment against Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC based on the promissory note in the amount of the unpaid principal balance of the note along with interest.

Argument and Authorities

The Court should grant the motion for summary judgment against Mr. Granata because Mr. Granata guaranteed the obligation of Full Spectrum Diagnostics, LLC. A default judgment was entered against that company for the promissory note Mr. Granata guaranteed. Therefore, the Court should grant the summary judgment against Mr. Granata for the same amount as the default judgment.

Prayer

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request the Court enter a Summary Judgment
corresponding to the default judgment entered against Full Spectrum Diagnostics,
LLC as follows:a. Monetary relief of $220,000.00; b. Interest in the amount of $8,066.67 through February 25, 2016 and 8% interest on the monetary relief expressed above, compounded annually, until paid in full.

(Citations to exhibits omitted.) Granata v. Kroese, No. 05-17-00118-CV (Jan. 10, 2018) (mem. op.)

Credibility matters.

A civil forfeiture action arising from a criminal conviction produced a succinct reminder about review for evidentiary sufficiency: “Wife’s testimony was equivocal, and the trial court was free to disbelieve her. See McGalliard v. Kuhlmann, 722 S.W.2d 694, 697 (Tex. 1986) (fact finder may believe one witness and disbelieve others).” One 2007 Lexus v. State, No. 05-16-01296-CV  (Jan. 8, 2018) (mem. op.)

No Casteel error

The appellant in Bowser v. Craig Ranch Emergency Hospital LLC, a medical negligence case, argued that a Casteel situation arose “because the single [liability] question . . . combined the negligence issue and the proximate cause issue, so it is impossible to assess how the jury was affected by the erroneous proximate cause instruction.”  The Fifth Court disagreed: “The Texas Supreme Court has specifically limited its holding in Casteel and its progeny to the submission of broad-form questions incorporating multiple theories of liability or multiple damage elements.” No. 05-16-00639-CV (Jan. 8, 2018) (mem. op.) (citing Bed, Bath & Beyond, Inc. v. Urista, 211 S.W.3d 753, 757 (Tex. 2006)).

Wrong flames, no fact issue.

The appellant in an unsuccessful wrongful-termiantion suit pointed to hearing testimony that he said “evinced a negative attitude . . . that [his] allegations were ‘very egregious and very inflammatory.” The Fifth Court affirmed summary judgment against him, noting on this point that the testimony addressed the nature of the allegations and was not a negative statement about the report itself.” Hackbarth v. UT-Dallas, No. 05-16-01250-CV (Jan. 4, 2018).

Death penalty sanctions reversed for failure to attend mediation

NRG failed to attend a court-ordered mediation. The court entered “death penalty” sanctions and NRG sought a new trial, alleging problems with notice and difficutly finding appropriate counsel (as an LLC, NRG could not appear pro se). The Fifth Court reversed, finding (1) no direct relationship between the sanction and the harm (incurred expenses) to the other party, (2) a failure to test less sanctions, and (3) potentially meritorious defenses. NRG & Associates v. Service Transfer, LLC, No. 05-16-01375-CV (Dec. 21, 2017) (mem. op.)

No SLAPP.

While finding that a statement in a cease-and-desist letter fell within the scope of the TCPA, the Fifth Court found a failure to state an actionable claim in response to a TCPA dismissal motion. As to tortious interference, the plaintiff’s damages allegations fell short of Elliott v. S&S Emergency Training Solutions, Inc., No. 05-16-01373-CV, 2017 WL 2118787 (Tex. App.—Dallas May 16, 2017, pet. filed); as to the tort of “invasion of seclusion,” the allegations failed because “[s]everal courts, including our own, have consistently held that an intrusion upon seclusion claim fails without evidence of a physical intrusion or eavesdropping on another’s conversation with the aid of wiretaps, microphones, or spying.” Morales v. Barnes, No. 05-17-00316-CV (Dec. 29, 2017) (mem. op.)