Death Penalty Sanctions Reversed on Fabrication of Evidence and Immaterial False Testimony

A long-running suit over a 1999 contract for the sale of a house resulted in a mistrial, followed by cross-motions for death penalty sanctions. The seller sought sanctions for discovery abuse and fraud, while the buyer claimed the seller had testified falsely at trial. The trial court granted both motions, striking everyone’s pleadings. Both sides appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. As to the buyer, the trial court had not considered the availability of lesser sanctions, and the fabrication of one construction estimate did not give rise to a presumption that other claims not based on that document were meritless. As to the seller, the death penalty sanction was disproportionate to the seriousness of the offense. The seller had testified that she paid a property tax bill with a credit card when records showed it was actually paid with cash and a check. Although the trial court found that misstatement was intentional, the Court of Appeals did not consider the discrepancy to be material enough to warrant the striking of her entire case.

Kim v. Hendrickson, No. 05-13-01024-CV

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