Appraisal – Pet. Granted

  • In re Allstate Vehicle & Prop. Ins. Co.
    • 542 S.W.3d 815
    • County Court at Law No. 2 of Montgomery County
    • Per Curiam, Feb. 22, 2018
  • Bailey insured her home for property damages with Allstate. After Bailey’s home was damaged in a storm, Allstate did not agree with the reported loss for damage and repair to the home. A demand letter was made on Allstate asking it to inform Bailey of the appraiser if it wished to conduct an appraisal of the damage. Allstate responded to the letter without regard to an appraiser or appraisal.
  • In response to the suit, Allstate  filed a motion asking the court for an order compelling an appraisal. Bailey argued that Allstate waived its right to an appraisal.The trial court denied Allstate’s motion.
  • The Ninth Court held that (1) Bailey’s counsel could not unilaterally change Allstate’s rights to an appraisal through a letter to Allstate threatening litigation, (2) Allstate had not unreasonably delayed in seeking an appraisal, (3) Bailey was not prejudiced by any delay in Allstate seeking an appraisal, and (4) Allstate was neither required to plead nor compel appraisal via its answer, a counterclaim, or a motion for summary judgment. A party’s right to appraisal may be accomplished by the filing of motion to compel appraisal, which is the procedure that Allstate followed.
  • The Ninth Court held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Allstate’s motion, conditionally granted the petition for mandamus relief, and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying the motion to compel the appraisal.

Debtor/Creditor – Affirmed

  • Envtl. Processing Sys., LC v. Horner
    • 09-16-00197-CV, 2018 WL 915184
    • 75th District Court of Liberty County
    • Justice Horton, Feb. 15, 2018
  • Horner, a collection agent, brought suit against Environmental Processing Systems, LLC (EPS) and Stegall to collect sums owed under a renewal note. Horner obtained the notes by assignment from creditors, and then he agreed with EPS and Stegall to a renewal and extension.
  • EPS and Stegall claimed that the loans violated Chapter 305 of the Texas Finance Code, a provision that penalizes creditors who contract, charge, or receive usurious interest. After a bench trial, the trial court awarded a verdict in favor of Horner.
  • On appeal, EPS and Stegall challenged the trial court’s finding against them on the issue of usury.
  • The Ninth Court concluded that EPS and Stegall had failed to meet their burden of proof and provide legally sufficient evidence to establish the fair market value of the debt and their a claim of usury; the trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

Responsible Third Parties – Pet. Granted

  • In re United Parcel Service, Inc.
    • No. 09–18–00002–CV, 2018 WL 753503
    • 60th District of Jefferson County
    • Per Curiam, Feb. 8, 2018
  • UPS filed a motion to designate several responsible third parties (RTP) on October 3, 2017, which at the time was more than 60 days before trial scheduled for December 2017.
  • The trial court’s original May docket control order placed a deadline to designate RTP by June 2, 2017. In October 2017, the trial court signed a new docket control order that vacated the December trial setting to an April 2018 setting and extended deadlines except for the June 2, 2017 deadline to designate RTP.
  • The other parties objected on the basis that UPS’ motion to designate RTP was after the June 2, 2017 deadline, and that the trial court’s new docket control order and trial setting did not invalidate the June 2, 2017 deadline. For those reasons, the trial court denied UPS’ motion.
  • The Ninth Court found that the original docket control order required UPS to designate responsible third parties approximately six months before the initially scheduled trial, a period approximately three times earlier than the statutorily given 60 day period. Though trial courts have authority to enter docket control orders, nothing in Rule 166 allows them to disregard statutory time limits. The Ninth Court held that the trial court abused its discretion and conditionally granted UPS’s petition for mandamus relief, directing the trial court to withdraw its order.

Default Judgment – Reversed and Rendered

  • Rhojo Enterprises, LLC v. Stevens
    • 540 S.W.3d 621
    • County Court at Law No. 2 of Montgomery County
    • Justice Kreger, Feb. 1, 2018
  • Stevens filed suit against Orion asserting claims arising out of a cell phone service contract and debt collection. A Return of Service indicated that Orion’s registered agent received service of Stevens’s Original Petition on August 11, 2015. One month later, Stevens filed a motion for default judgment based upon Orion’s failure to answer and noticed a hearing on the motion. Shortly before the hearing, Orion’s alleged owner filed a pro se motion to dismiss the case. The trial court proceeded with the hearing and granted with the default judgment in favor of Stevens without regard to Orion’s motion to dismiss.
  • Orion appealed the default judgment and argued that the trial court erred when it failed to recognize Orion’s pro se motion to dismiss as an answer.
  • The Ninth Court, after noting that “Texas appellate courts have been reluctant to uphold default judgments where some response is found in the record, even if the response is in the form of a letter,” held that Orion motion contained enough information to give Stevens fair notice, and therefore, it constituted an answer. The Ninth Court reversed the default judgment entered against Orion and remanded the case to the trial court.

University Immunity – Reversed and Rendered

  • Lamar University v. Jenkins
    • No. 09–17–00213–CV, 2018 WL 358960
    • 172nd District Court of Jefferson County
    • Chief Justice McKeithen, Jan. 11 2018
  • Dr. Steve Jenkins sued Lamar alleging that it had retaliated against him under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) by denying his application for Full Professor with tenure status due to his opposition against using the GRE as a criteria for admission, which he contended was an inherently racist test.
  • In response, Lamar University filed a plea to the jurisdiction on the basis of sovereign immunity.
  • The Ninth Court held that under the TCHRA, Dr. Jenkins had to demonstrate a good faith, reasonable belief that the University engaged in an unlawful employment practice. Based upon the pleadings, Dr. Jenkins could not show that Lamar’s use of the GRE as admission criteria gave him a good faith, reasonable belief of an unlawful employment practice. The Ninth Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Lamar’s plea to the jurisdiction and rendered judgment dismissing the claims against it.