Mandatory forum . . . if . . .

The forum selection clause in In re Atos IT Solutions said: “If the Dispute cannot be resolved by Customer and Supplier in accordance with Clause 32.1[the Mandatory ADR Process], the Parties irrevocably agree that the Courts of England shall have exclusive jurisdiction . . . .” “The use of the term ‘if’ connotes a condition precedent that conditions performance rather than a covenant or promise.” (quoting Shin-Con Dev. Corp. v. I.P. Invs., Ltd., 270 S.W.3d 759, 766–67 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, pet. denied)). The trial court received evidence about whether that condition had been satisfied here, concluded that it had not, and the Fifth Court thus found no abuse of discretion in the resulting ruling. No. 05-17-00952-CV (Aug. 18, 2017) (mem. op.).

Relators know the way to San Jose.

The Fifth Court found this forum selection clause mandatory and unambiguous: “Any lawsuit relating to any matter arising under this agreement shall be initiated in a State or Federal Court located in San Jose, California.” An attempt to avoid the contract provision by relying upon tort claims failed under Pinto Technology Ventures v. Sheldon (Tex. May 19, 2017): “Dynasty’s claims arise from the business relationship that was struck through the agreements and will require review and interpretation of the agreements by the trial court or trier of fact for Dynasty to prevail. On this record, a but for relationship is evidence between the claims asserted below and the Business Agreement.” In re Bambu Franchising, No. 05-17-00690-CV (Sept. 12, 2017) (mem. op.)

Waiver of “venue” isn’t a waiver of “forum.”

Omnicare and Remarkable had four contracts, all with a forum selection clause which said that Delaware state and federal courts had jurisdiction “to the exclusion of any and all other possible venues.” Remarkable sued Omnicare in four separate Texas counties (one suit per contract); the parties agreed to consolidate them in Dallas, and signed a Rule 11 agreement to do so which said that Omnicare agreed to “waive any objections they may have to venue over the claims against them being in Dallas County.” Omnicare then moved to dismiss, based on the contractual forum selection clause. The Fifth Court conditionally granted mandamus relief in favor of Omnicare, finding that the Rule 11 agreement addressed “venue” – the locale within the Texas system – as opposed to “forum” – the locale outside that system. In re Omnicare Pharmacy, No. 05-17-00246-CV (Aug. 31, 2017).

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).

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.)

 

Counting counties

The high-profile mandamus case of In re: Paxton provides a general reminder about geographic bounds on Texas trial courts: “Jurisdiction over the cases vested immediately in the Harris County district courts when respondent signed the transfer order. The Texas Constitution does not allow the 416th Judicial District Court to sit outside of the Collin County seat, McKinney, absent express statutory authority. Tex. Const. art. V, § 7. The only authority by which this may occur is [Code of Criminal Procedure] article 31.09, which requires consent of the parties. Thus, absent effective application of article 31.09, respondent may not continue to preside over the cases or utilize the services of the court reporter, court coordinator, or clerk of the court of original venue. Relator has unequivocally stated that he did not consent to respondent continuing to preside over the cases or otherwise acting in accordance with article 31.09, and no written consent appears in our record. Accordingly, under the plain language of the statute, respondent is without authority to continue to preside over the cases and is also without authority to issue orders or directives maintaining the case files in Collin County. Consequently, all orders issued by respondent after he signed the April 11, 2017 transfer order are void.” No. 05-17-00507-CV (May 30, 2017).

Mandatory venue for injunctions: what’s your primary purpose?

Alphabet Soup

In In re FPWP GP LLC, et al. (January 25, 2017), the Dallas Court of Appeals conditionally granted a writ of mandamus for the district court’s failure to transfer venue under the mandatory venue provision of Section 65.023 of the Civil Practice & Remedies Code, which provides that “a writ of injunction against a party who is a resident of this state shall be tried in … the county in which the party is domiciled.” Courts have struggled at times to apply Section 65.023 because it does not apply to all suits seeking an injunction, but instead only to suits in which the relief requested is “purely or primarily injunctive.” So, if the primary form of relief is something else, e.g. damages, then the mandatory venue provision does not apply. The opinion gave examples of the exception, such as when injunctive relief is simply to maintain the status quo pending litigation or when there is no request for a permanent injunction. But in the case at hand, the plaintiff sought only a declaratory judgment that was effectively a mirror image of the permanent injunctive relief requested. Holding the injunction “was a means to the same end” as the declaratory judgment, the Court held that the primary purpose of the lawsuit was injunctive and that transfer to the county of domicile of the defendants was mandatory under Section 65.023.

In re FPWP GP LLC, et al. (January 25, 2017)

No mandamus in dispute about “dominant” jurisdiction — UPDATED

fort apache posterIn the mandamus case of In re Fort Apache Energy Inc., the relators sought relief from a trial setting in Dallas County, alleging that it interfered with the dominant jurisdiction (and slightly later trial setting) of the Kendall County Court.  No. 05-15-00159-CV (Dec. 16, 2015).  The Dallas Court of Appeals denied the petition, finding that the setting did not “amount[] to the kind of direct interference . . . that warrants mandamus relief under currently governing law.”  (citing, inter aliaAbor v. Black, 695 S.W.2d 564, 566 (Tex. 1985) (orig. proceeding).  In a classic disagreement about the scope and role of mandamus proceedings, a dissent would grant relief, arguing that “refusal to correct the trial court’s clear abuse of discretion by mandamus presents a strong likelihood of wasted public and private resources alike.”  The Texas Supreme Court has since accepted a mandamus petition in, and set oral argument for, a similar case, also from Dallas.