May 20, 2016

May 20, 2016

This week the Texas Supreme Court issued 7 opinions and no grants. Three of these opinions are of particular interest.

Leonard K. Hoskins v. Colonel Clifton Hoskins and Hoskins, Inc. - 15-0046:

In this case, the Texas Supreme Court addressed (1) whether the Texas Arbitration Act provides exclusive grounds for vacatur of an arbitration award and (2) whether an arbitrator's refusal to hold a hearing on a supplemental complaint after issuing a final award substantially prejudiced the movant's rights.

The Texas Supreme Court concluded that the specifically enumerated grounds under the Texas Arbitration Act provide the exclusive grounds for vacatur of an arbitration award because the plain language of the Act requires affirmation unless one of the specified grounds are shown and leaves no room for expansion beyond the enumerated grounds. The Court further found that the refusal to hold a hearing did not prejudice the movant's rights in this case because the movant's new claims were based on conveyances of real property and the arbitrator had previously heard arguments on and determined that the movant lacked standing to challenge such conveyances.

In re M-I L.L.C., d/b/a M-I Swaco - 14-1045:

In this case, the Texas Supreme Court evaluated the scope of a party's due-process right to have a designated representative present at a temporary injunction hearing dealing with alleged trade secrets. Finding that due process requires a balancing of the competing private interests, the Court determined that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to conduct portions of the temporary injunction outside the presence of the opposing party's designated representative, because the trial court failed to balance the competing interests by failing to consider the relative value of the alleged trade secrets as well as the degree to which the opposing party's defense would be impaired by the exclusion of its designated representative.

Christus Health Gulf Coast v. Linda Carswell - 14-0362:

In Christus Health Gulf Coast v. Linda Carswell, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on two important issues: (1) whether a claim that consent for an autopsy was fraudulently obtained qualifies as a health care liability claim and (2) whether courts have discretion to impose monetary sanctions for waste of judicial resources.

The family of decedent brought wrongful death claims and a post-mortem fraud claim against the hospital for fraudulently obtaining the family's consent to autopsy. The trial court ruled that the post-mortem fraud claim was not a health care liability claim (HCLC) under Chapter 74 of the TCPRC. The Court of Appeals agreed.

The Texas Supreme Court held that the post-mortem fraud claim was an HCLC subject to Chapter 74 of the TCPRC because the claim was based on the Hospital's obtaining consent for the autopsy for the alleged purpose of concealing malpractice that caused the death; therefore, the allegedly improper health care received by the decedent while a patient was directly related to the professional or administrative services underlying the post-mortem fraud claim.

The Court further found that under Texas rules any sanctions must remedy prejudice to the innocent party; therefore, a court does not have discretion to impose sanctions based on how much time courts spend on hearings.