March 17, 2017

Over the last 2 weeks, the Texas Supreme Court has issued 6 grants and 3 opinions. Two of these opinions and two of these grants are of particular interest.

First, in the Engelman Irrigation District v. Shields Brothers, Inc. case, the Court addressed whether sovereign immunity "so implicates subject-matter jurisdiction that if allows collateral attack on a final judgment" entered more than 20 years ago.

Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the final judgment was indeed final and could not be attacked collaterally in this case.

Although recognizing both that a "judicial decision generally applies retroactively" and that "judgment rendered without subject-matter jurisdiction is void and subject to collateral attack," the Texas Supreme Court declined to hold "that sovereign immunity so implicates subject-matter jurisdiction that it allows collateral attack on a final judgment." In this case, the Court "favor[ed] finality over uncertainty" and upheld the Court of Appeals' judgment.

Second, in D Magazine Partners, L.P., et al. v. Janay Bender Rosenthal, as part of its analysis in this defamation case, the Texas Supreme court weighed the pros and cons of judicial reliance on Wikipedia as a source.

Acknowledging the many uses of and arguments both for and against Wikipedia as a source, the Court concluded that "a bright-line rule is untenable" and instead focused its analysis on the fact that the Court of Appeals "utilized Wikipedia as its primary source to ascribe a specific, narrow definition to a single term that the court found significantly influenced the article's gist." In other words, the Court of Appeals "used the Wikipedia definition as the lynchpin of its analysis on a critical issue." Such use, the Court suggested, is improper given the open and ever-changing nature of Wikipedia content.

Third, the Court has issued a grant to Steven Painter et al. v. Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd., out of the El Paso Court of Appeals. In this case, the Court will address whether payment of a "bonus" to an employee to drive other employees to and from the job site and company housing subjects the employer to vicarious liability when the employee's negligence results in a motor vehicle accident. A date for oral argument has not been set yet.

Fourth, in the Jim P. Benge, M.D., and Kelsey-Seybold Medical Group PLLC v. Lauren Williams a medical malpractice case from Harris County, the Court will address two main issues: (1) whether submission of the broad-form negligence jury charge was error when two theories of negligence were alleged and (2) whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that Plaintiff's sole expert witness met the "practicing medicine" requirement under Section 74.401(a)(1) of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code. A date for oral argument for this case has not been set yet.