No benefit from benefits lawsuit

dpfpsquarelogo_copyIn a technical but financially critical decision, Eddington v. Dallas Police & Fire Pension System, the Fifth Court held that adjustments to the future interest rate paid on accounts established under a pension plan, sponsored by the beleaguered Dallas Police & Fire Pension system, did not violate the prohibition on benefit reductions contained in article XVI, section 66 of the Texas Constitution. No. 05-15-00839-CV (Dec. 13, 2016). Of general interest, a component of its analysis reviewed when a federal Fifth Circuit opinion about state law matters will be followed in state court.

The first thing we do, let’s pay all the lawyers . . .

movie-theaterSchultz, owner of a chain of movie theaters, did not want to pay Banowsky, a licensed Texas attorney, for helping Schultz find a theater location.  Schultz won summary judgment based on the Texas Real Estate Licensing Act,  primarily because Banowsky admitted that his work did not involve legal services.  The Fifth Court reversed: “[Schultz] argues that Banowsky’s construction of the Act is both unreasonable and favors the individual interest of an attorney over the interest in protecting the public from unlicensed, unscrupulous, or unqualified persons.  But the fact remains that the plain language of the statute exempts attorneys from all requirements of the Act.”  Banowsky v. Schultz, No. 05-14-01624-CV (Feb. 10, 2016) (mem. op.)

A Cause of Action “Among Brokers” Must Be Actually Be Among Brokers

The plaintiff, a licensed real estate broker, sued the vice president of a real estate property management company for tortious interference based on the defendant’s involvement in the refusal to provide the plaintiff with a commission for a property he allegedly had the exclusive right to sell.  Because the promise to pay a commission was not in writing, however, the plaintiff was limited by statute to a “cause of action among brokers for interference with business relationships.”  The Court of Appeals found that the defendant was not a licensed real estate broker and that the plaintiff admitted that the defendant did not act as a broker.  Thus, the Court found that the plaintiff’s claim was barred under the Real Estate License Act and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Murphy v. Williams

No Mandamus to Deny Lienholder’s Possession of Aircraft

Patrick Curry and PJC Equipment Leasing are the owners of an IAI Westwind II jet. They hired Matthew Webb and MKW Aviation to manage the plane, and MKW maintained possession of it in that capacity. A dispute arose over MKW’s charges, and the trial court granted a writ of sequestration requiring MKW to relinquish the airplane and its records to PJC. MKW then filed a lien against the aircraft for unpaid storage, maintenance, and fuel charges totaling over $35,000. The trial court granted MKW’s application for turnover relief, thereby requiring PJC to hand the plane back over to MKW. In an opinion focused on statutory construction, he court of appeals ended up denying PJC’s mandamus petition challenging that decision. Section 70.302 of the Property Code permits the holder of an aircraft storage and maintenance lien to retain and even retake possession of the subject airplane. The court of appeals rejected PJC’s contention that MKW would have to be a “secured party” to retake possession of the aircraft, ruling instead that being the holder of the aircraft lien was sufficient basis under the statute for reclaiming the property subject to the lien. The trial court therefore did not abuse its discretion in ordering the plane to be returned to MKW.

In re Curry, No. 05-13-00734-CV