Inaccurate, But Not Groundless

A Collin County divorce case turned into a temporary injunction proceeding involving claims of assault and terroristic threats by an attorney in the middle of a deposition. The plaintiff, Barry Wells, alleged that his wife’s attorney became angry when Wells told him to calm down and commented that May’s daughter had probably committed suicide due to the attorney’s supposed anger issues. The lawyer allegedly made multiple death threats in the course of throwing Wells out of the building. Five days later, Wells filed a petition seeking injunctive relief to prevent the attorney from coming within 300 feet of him. The trial court granted an ex parte TRO, but the attorney quickly moved to dissolve the order and to impose sanctions for filing a groundless, bad faith pleading. After a hearing, the trial court dissolved the TRO and entered sanctions against Wells by striking his petition and dismissing the case with prejudice.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the dissolution of the TRO, but reversed the sanctions order. The ruling on the TRO was moot, and therefore non-appealable, because the order would have expired after 14 days in any event. As to the sanctions order, the deposition transcript revealed that Wells had been the instigator of the confrontation with the defendant, and that his comment about the attorney’s daughter was outrageous, the transcript also showed that the attorney had indeed threatened to kill Wells if he did not leave or if he ever returned. Thus, even though though Wells’ pleading presented an inaccurate account of what had transpired, the threat of imminent bodily injury meant that the claims of assault and terroristic threat were not groundless. The order striking the petition was therefore reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Wells v. May, No. 05-12-01100-CV

I Got 33 Problems, But Reversal Ain’t One

After accepting a $1500 settlement for damage to his truck, David Lynd allegedly began to harass various executives and employees of Bass Pro Shop, threatening them and demanding additional money. Bass Pro responded by filing a motion to enforce the releases in the settlement agreement and seeking injunctive relief. The trial court granted temporary and permanent injunctions, ordering Lynd not to contact Bass Pro personnel and to stay at least 100 feet away from Bass Pro’s locations and the homes of its directors, officers, and employees. Lynd — appearing pro se — asserted an impressive 33 issues on appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court was unwilling to consider the errors Lynd claimed from the original lawsuit, which had not been appealed and could only be attacked on bill of review. The Court rejected Lynd’s attempts to argue that the settlement had been procured by fraud, as well as his complaint that he had been “betrayed by own counsel” in that lawsuit. More notably, the Court affirmed the trial court’s injunction, holding that Lynd’s pattern of harassment demonstrated imminent harm that could not be remedied by an award of damages. An injunction was proper, the Court held, because Lynd’s demands for additional money were in violation of his settlement agreement with Bass Pro, in which he had released all his claims concerning his truck, including all claims against the company’s personnel.

Lynd v. Bass Pro Outdoor World, Inc., No. 05-12-00968-CV

Not So Imminent Harm

In this derivative suit, the plaintiff sought a temporary injunction stopping officers of the defendant company who had each been granted a promissory note in lieu of salary (which note was then in default) giving them the right to foreclose.  Although the trial court granted the temporary injunction, the Court of Appeals held that the mere existence of unexercised contractual rights does not give rise to the “imminent harm” required to sustain a temporary injunction, reversing the trial court’s decision.

Schmidt v. Richardson

Injunction Reversed for Lack of Specificity

In this memorandum opinion, the Court found that the trial court’s temporary injunction preventing the defendants from disclosing, among other things, “techniques,”  “materials,” “confidential information” and “proprietary information,” was not specific enough to meet the  requirements of TRCP 683, which requires that an injunction shall “describe in reasonable detail . . . the acts sought to be restrained.”

Ramirez v. Ignite Holdings

For Your Information, the Court of Appeals Has Roundly Rejected Prior Restraint

Jay Nanda and his brother, Atul, ended up in a dispute over their jointly-owned company, Dibon Solutions. An arbitrator awarded ownership of the company to Atul and ordered him to pay Jay in excess of $500,000. After the arbitration award, Jay began to call Dibon’s customers and its bank, claiming that Dibon was engaged in all kinds of misconduct, including money laundering, human trafficking, and forging documents. Dibon sued Jay, asking the trial court for a temporary injunction to stop Jay from spreading his allegations any further. The trial court denied the temporary injunction, and Dibon filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the testimony supported Jay’s assertion that the statements were true. Without any false or misleading statements at issue, Dibon could not meet its burden of establishing an exception to the First Amendment’s prohibition of prior restraint. The court went on to hold that an injunction could not be sustained on Dibon’s alternative theory of tortious interference because, apart from the fact that Jay admitted sending the disparaging information in an email, there was no evidence that he had otherwise taken an active part in persuading Dibon’s customer to breach its contract. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dibon’s request for a temporary injunction.

Dibon Solutions, Inc. v. Nanda, No. 05-12-01112-CV

Void From the Start

A temporary injunction order is void if it does not fix the amount of security for the applicant’s bond or fails to set a trial date. The injunction issued against appellant Michael Lodispoto did neither. As a result, the court of appeals set aside both the TI order and the trial court’s subsequent order to show cause for violations of the injunction.

Lodispoto v. Ruvolo, No. 05-12-01580-CV

Some Appeals Are Easier Than Others

A temporary injunction order is void if it doesn’t set a specific date for trial on the merits. In this case, the county court at law issued a temporary injunction that only said it “shall remain in effect until final disposition of this case or until further order of the Court.” Neither “final disposition” nor “further order” is a date certain, so the TI was reversed on appeal as void without further reference to the merits.

ACI Healthcare Staffing, LLC v. V-Platinum Consulting, LP, No. 05-12-01060-CV

Standard of Review

In February, the court of appeals reversed a district court’s temporary injunction prohibiting a lender from foreclosing on the borrower’s properties, concluding that the testimony only established an agreement to negotiate, not an enforceable agreement to forebear from foreclosure. The court has now issued an updated opinion in that case that clarifies the standard of review. In the original opinion, the court wrote that “the trial court abuses its discretion when it misapplies the law to established facts or when the evidence does not reasonably support the trial court’s determination of the existence of a probable injury or a probable right of recovery.” In the revised opinion, the court states that an abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court “misapplies the law to established facts or when there is no evidence that supports the trial court’s determination of the existence of a probable injury or a probable right of recovery.” The difference between those two standards yielded no difference in the outcome of the case, but anyone appealing a temporary injunction should be sure to cite the correct standard of review.

Branch Banking & Trust Co. v. TCI Luna Ventures, LLC, No. 05-12-00653-CV

No Probable Right to Postpone Foreclosure

The court of appeals has reversed the grant of a temporary injunction that prohibited the lender from foreclosing on a pair of properties that secured a $10,000,000 promissory note. After multiple previous foreclosures, a bankruptcy filing, and the voluntary dismissal of the bankruptcy case, the borrower sued to enjoin further foreclosures, claiming that the parties had entered into a binding agreement that limited the lender’s ability to foreclose. The court of appeals rejected that argument, concluding that the testimony of the borrower’s witness at the injunction hearing only demonstrated an agreement to engage in further negotiations following dismissal of the bankruptcy, not any concrete and enforceable contractual terms. The court of appeals also rejected the borrower’s contention that the foreclosures would be wrongful because they would result in less than fair market value being received. That argument, the court held, was only applicable to a deficiency claim after foreclosure, not as grounds to prevent foreclosure itself.  The court of appeals therefore dissolved the temporary injunction and remanded the case to the trial court.

Branch Banking & Trust Co. v. TCI Luna Ventures, LLC, No. 05-12-000653-CV

UPDATE: The court has issued a revised opinion in the case, in which it clarifies the standard of review. The outcome remains the same.

Interlocutory Appeal Is No Substitute for Trial on the Merits

Kaufman County obtained a temporary injunction against the operators of a local firing range, preventing them from continuing to operate the gun range because it was too close to nearby businesses and residences.  The range owners filed an interlocutory appeal, and the parties thereafter agreed to stay the trial court proceedings while the appeal was pending. But an interlocutory appeal of a temporary injunction is not supposed to delay the trial on the merits, as the issue on appeal is whether the court abused its discretion in ordering temporary relief before the case can proceed to full trial, not to obtain a ruling on the merits from the appellate courts. Invoking the rule that the fastest way to cure the hardship of a temporary injunction is to try the case on the merits, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal, admonishing the parties and the trial court to proceed “expeditiously” to trial.

Morgan Security Consultants, LLC v. Kaufman County, No. 05-12-00721-CV