No Standing in Partnership Dispute

In this partnership dispute, two individual limited partners sued their fellow individual partner (who also signed the limited partnership agreement on behalf of the general partner entity) for, among other things, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the two limited partners, but the trial court granted a JNOV, dismissing those claims for lack of standing.  The Court of Appeals affirmed because “a limited partner does not have standing to sue for injuries to the partnership that merely diminish the value of that partner’s interest” and the plaintiffs’ claims were based solely on their fellow partner’s duties as a partner.

Hodges v. Rajpal

Service of Process on a Financial Institution

In this restricted appeal, the plaintiff carried out service on the defendant, a bank with a registered agent in New York, solely though service of process upon the Texas Secretary of State.  On appeal, the Court agreed with the defendant that such service was improper because the plaintiff failed to strictly comply with CPRC 17.028, which permits service upon a financial institution by service to “the president or a branch manager at any office located in the state.”

Bank of N.Y. Mellon v. Redbud 115 Land Tr.

A Hookah Bar is Not a Restaurant

Mike Jabary obtained a commercial certificate of occupancy for a restaurant in Allen, Texas.  As it turns out, Mr. Jabary opened a hookah bar instead of a restaurant.  Consequently, the City of Allen revoked his certificate of occupancy.

Mr. Jabary sued the City, alleging both private and public takings.  The City filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that, because Mr. Jabary had not exhausted his administrative remedies by filing an appeal with the City, his claim was not ripe.  The trial court granted the City’s MSJ, and Mr. Jabary appealed.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, rejecting Mr. Jabary’s argument that appealing to the city would be futile.

Jabary v. City of Allen

Post-Petition Individual Bankruptcy Does Not Affect Corporation’s Standing

In this breach of contract case, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue its claim because the plaintiff’s owner filed for bankruptcy individually.  According to the defendant, the bankruptcy trustee would have been the only party with standing to prosecute the claim.  The Court rejected this argument, however, because the lawsuit was filed two years before the plaintiff filed for bankruptcy and, more importantly, the plaintiff (a coroporation) never itself filed for bankruptcy.  Thus, the plaintiff could establish standing.

Keane Landscaping v. Divine Group

No Standing Without a Common Law Marriage

Family law and medical malpractice aren’t usually our things here at 600 Commerce, but a wrongful death opinion case illustrates a principle of standing that may be of interest to commercial litigators in their own tort and family law-related cases. At issue was whether the plaintiff had standing to sue for wrongful death after her former husband died of cardiac arrest. Husband and wife were formally divorced at the time of his death, but the wife claimed that they had an “informal” or common law marriage even after the divorce. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The wrongful death statute required the plaintiff to have been a surviving spouse. The evidence showed that the divorce had really only happened because the couple wanted to protect their assets from potential creditors, and that they had continued to live together and hold themselves out as husband and wife. Although the couple here held themselves out to be husband and wife and lived together as such after the divorce, the wife had failed to show that they had actually agreed to be married — i.e., that they had a present, immediate, and permanent intent to be married as husband and wife. Instead, the widow testified that they had intended to “legalize the marriage again” only when the couple’s creditors were paid off. Thus, without the required element of a present intent to be married, the plaintiff could not demonstrate the existence of a common law marriage, and she had no standing to sue under the wrongful death statute.

Malik v. Bhargava, No. 05-13-00384-CV

Incapacitated

In a breach of contract case, a group of defendants appealed from the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The defendants argued that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue them because there was no evidence it had privity of contract with any of the defendants. The court of appeals rejected that argument, holding that the defendants were actually challenging the capacity of the plaintiff to sue or be sued. The plaintiff had standing to sue on the contract because it pleaded and proved it was “formerly known as” the party named in the agreement. As to the challenge to the plaintiff’s capacity, the court held that the defendants had been untimely in making that challenge, as the verified denial of capacity required by Rule 93 was only filed the morning of the summary judgment hearing — not 7 days before as required by Rule 63. The trial court’s summary judgment order indicated that it had not considered the amended pleading, stating that it had considered the “pleadings timely filed,” not all of the pleadings in the case. Nor was the issue of capacity tried by consent as part of the summary judgment proceeding, since the response to the summary judgment motion raised no issue of the plaintiff’s capacity to bring suit. Likewise, the court of appeals rejected the claim of one of the individual defendants that he could not be personally liable on the contract because he had signed it as CEO of the defendant corporation. Because the defendant had not timely filed a verified denial of his capacity to be sued individually, that issue was also waived. As a result, the trial court’s judgment was afffirmed.

John C. Flood of DC, Inc. v. SuperMedia, LLC, No. 05-12-00307-CV

Former Judges Lack Standing To Challenge Judicial Selection Process

Several former Dallas municipal judges brought this lawsuit challenging the 2012 municipal judge selection process, claiming that the Mayor and the City Council violated the city code by asking nominees to comment in writing on legislative proposals by an ad hoc legislative committee and by interviewing additional candidates without justification.  The Court of Appeals, however, concluded that these former judges lack standing to sue because they seek only a declaration that the City Council violated the law.  The Court found that the judges lacked any personal stake in the outcome of the case because (1) they disclaimed any intent to challenge the appointment of their successor judges; (2) they do not seek to be reinstated as judges; and (3) they deny that they are challenging the legitimacy of any ordinance.

Rawlings v. Gonzalez

Miscellaneous Dismissals

While the blog has been quiet for a while, the justices at the original 600 Commerce have been clearing out a lot of summary dismissals lately (not to mention handling their usual docket of criminal and family law cases, which we generally don’t blog about here).  Three of those short dismissal opinions today turn on issues that may be of some interest.

In Earth Energy Utility Corp. v. Environmentally Engineered Equipment, Inc., No. 05-10-01610-CV, the court of appeals had previously granted leave for the appellant’s attorneys to withdraw.  The court instructed the appellant corporation that it needed to provide notice of the identity of substitute counsel, and even granted an additional 45 days to do so.  Four months later, the appellant still had not obtained successor counsel, and so the court dismissed the appeal.  The lesson: Corporations still can’t represent themselves pro se.

In Bryant v. US Bank, N.A., No. 05-11-00121-CV, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal due to the appellant’s lack of standing.  The appellant had certainly had standing to defend the case when US Bank sued her in a forcible detainer proceeding, but the trial court subsequently dismissed the bank’s case for want of prosecution.  For some reason, the defendant sought appellate review of the DWOP.  Because her rights were not prejudiced when the trial court dismissed the bank’s case against her, the court of appeals determined that she lacked standing to appeal.

Finally, in Olanya v. U.S. Bank, N.A., No. 05-11-00878, the bank had actually been awarded judgment for possession in another forcible detainer case.  But the defendant did not supercede the judgment pending appeal, and the bank took possession of the property.  Since the entire point of a forcible detainer claim is to obtain immediate possession of the property, and that had already occurred, the issue of immediate possession had been rendered moot.  Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal.