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

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