Same words + Different issue = No judicial admission.

notequalThe Fifth Court continues to carefully police the boundaries of judicial admissions.  In a family law case, it observed: “In her original motion to modify, Mother did not request the amount of child support be modified; rather she requested only that the order be modified to impose greater restrictions on Father’s access to [Child].  Therefore, Mother’s statement there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances was directed toward possession of and access to J.C.J., not the previously ordered child support.  Accordingly, Mother did not make a ‘clear, deliberate, and unequivocal’ statement in her original motion to modify that there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances relating to Father’s financial condition or to the amount of child support Father had been ordered to pay.”  In re JCJ, No. 05-14-01449-CV (Jan. 28, 2016) (mem. op.) (applying Horizon/CMS Healthcare Corp. v. Auld,  34 S.W.3d 887, 905 (Tex. 2000)).

No implied consent = No declaratory judgment

no consentWhile otherwise affirming the plaintiffs’ victory in an easement dispute, the Dallas Court of Appeals struck a portion of the trial court’s declaratory judgment related to the legal rights associated with that easement.  The Court found no request for judgment on that matter in the plaintiffs’ live pleading or summary judgment motion, and also found that general discussion of the applicable city regulations had been offered for other purposes.  The Court reminded: “[A]n issue is not tried by consent when evidence relevant to the unpleaded issue is also relevant to a pleaded issue because admitting that evidence would not be calculated to elicit an objection and its admission would not prove the parties’ ‘clear intent’ to try the unpleaded issue.”  United Services Pyramid Group v. Hurt, Noi. 05-14-00108-CV (Dec. 7, 2015) (mem. op.)

Jury Verdict Trumped by Lack of Verified Denial

For 15 years, Steven Anderson was a route driver for Greenville Automatic Gas Co. Anderson quit and went to work for Automatic Propane Gas & Supply, leading Greenville to invoke an employment agreement that it claimed included both a a covenant not to compete and a nonsolicit provision. Anderson and Automatic Propane sued for a declaratory judgment, alleging (after a series of amendments to the pleadings) that Anderson had only signed a shorter contract that contained neither of the terms claimed by Greenville. The jury found that Anderson has not agreed to the terms claimed by Greenville and awarded him approximately $75,000 in attorney fees. The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Anderson and Automatic Gas could not dispute the validity of Greenville’s contract because they had failed to timely file a verified pleading denying its validity, as required by TRCP 93. The Court of Appeals also affirmed summary judgment against Greenville on its tort-based counterclaims and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Greenville Automatic Gas Co. v. Automatic Propane Gas & Supply, LLC, No. 05-13-01405-CV

On Pleading for Recovery of Attorney Fees

The Dallas Court of Appeals has now joined two other Texas appellate courts in holding that “A post-verdict motion requesting attorney’s fees filed before the entry of a final judgment is a sufficient pleading to support an attorney’s fee award.” The Court also disposed of the appellant’s argument that a $50,000 fee award was unreasonable because it far exceeded the $11,000 in damages found by the jury, holding that the issue was waived by failing to request a reporter’s record of the hearing.

Nisby v. Dentsply Int’l, Inc., No. 05-14-00814-CV

Non-Existent Corporation Cannot Sue on Contract

In 2005, Dibon Solutions acquired 100% of RTS’s common stock. In 2006, the Texas Secretary of State ordered the forfeiture of RTS’s charter or certificate of authority for failure to comply with the tax code. In 2007, Martinair contracted with RTS for use of RTS’s profit optimization products and related services. Martinair later terminated its agreement with RTS, and RTS sued Martinair for breach of contract, identifying the plaintiff as RTS, “a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Texas.”

Martinair filed a motion for summary judgment against RTS, arguing RTS’s forfeiture of its corporate existence in 2006 deprived it of legal authority and capacity under Texas law to enter into the Agreement upon which it sued Martinair, which the trial court granted in part. The trial court also struck RTS’s amended petition, which had purported to substitute RTS’s parent corporation, Dibon, as the plaintiff. On appeal, Dibon argued the trial court erred in striking its amended petition. The Court of Appeals disagreed, and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Rule 28 permits a partnership doing business under an assumed name to file suit in that name. However, Dibon failed to make a showing that it actually conducted business under the name RTS, thus its amended petition was improper.

Dibon Solutions, Inc. v. Martinair Holland N.V., No. 05-11-01586-CV