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March 6, 2020
This week, the Texas Supreme Court did not release any opinions or grant any Petitions for Review or Mandamus.
Check back with us next week for any newly released orders or opinions.
February 14, 2020
This week the Texas Supreme Court has issued one grant and no opinions.
On March 25, 2020, the Court will hear oral arguments in W&T Offshore Inc. v. Wesley Fredieu from the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston. This oil-platform-injury case involves an employee who was leased out to the Respondent and was injured while stationed on the Respondent’s off-shore drilling rig. The Court will address three main issues. First, it will consider whether an employee’s status as a borrowed-employee is a question of fact for the jury to decide, or rather, a legal determination for the court. Second, it will consider whether the disputed fact issues pertaining to the borrowed-employee status precludes the trial court from substituting its determination for the jury’s as a matter of law. Third, it will determine whether there is enough supporting evidence to uphold the jury’s finding that the worker was not a borrowed employee.
January 31, 2020
This week the Texas Supreme Court has issued eight opinions and no grants. This blog discusses two of these opinions, which provide guidance on several important issues.
First, in In re Fox River Real Estate Holdings Inc. et al., the Texas Supreme Court addressed which mandatory venue provision prevails when there is a conflict between two sections. Here, the two sections were section 15.020 and section 65.023(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Under section 15.020, pre-litigation agreements regarding venue should be enforced in “major transactions.” However, section 65.023(a) states that venue is where the defendant is domiciled.
This case involved a lawsuit regarding wrongful disposition of a limited partnership’s assets. The plaintiffs in this case were a group of limited partners from Metropolitan Water Company, L.P., and they sued to permanently remove the general partner and owner of Metropolitan Water Company, L.P., for misappropriating assets and breaching his fiduciary duties owned to the partnership. The plaintiff’s sought damages exceeding $1 million. Prior to the suit, the parties had a written agreement that provided if disputes arose from the agreement venue would be in Harris County. The lawsuit was brought in Washington County because that is where the defendants were domiciled. The defendant moved to transfer venue to Harris County. The trial court granted the transfer, and the Court of Appeals affirmed this decision.
The Texas Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by transferring the case to Harris County, the venue which was agreed upon by the parties. The court reasoned that section 15.020 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code prevailed over section 65.023(a) because section 65.023 only applies in cases where injunctive relief is the “primary and principal relief requested,” which was not the case in this suit.
Next, in Shary Pruski v. Joshua Garcia, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on what the correct standard of tort liability is when a driver collides with an escaped bull on a state highway in a county with a stock law. The Plaintiff in this case, Garcia, was driving his pickup truck on a state highway when he struck and killed a bull, wrecking his truck and injuring himself. The bull had escaped from a broken gate in the fenced pasture owned by Shary Pruski. Garcia sued Pruski claiming that he negligently failed to keep the bull within a fenced area and failed to prevent him from wandering on the highway. Garcia relied on section 143.074 of the Texas Agriculture Code which states in counties that have enacted stock laws, like the one at issue here, “a person may not permit any animal of the class mentioned in the [stock law] proclamation to run at large in the county.” Tex. Agric. Code. §143.074. However, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Pruski following a different section of the Agriculture Code. Under section 143.102, owners of certain livestock “may not knowingly permit the animal to reverse or roam at large, unattended, on the right-of-way of a highway.” Id. § 143.102. This section is violated only when the owner knowingly permits livestock to run at large.
The court of appeals disagreed with the trial court’s ruling and applied section 143.074 which does not require the livestock owner’s “knowing” mental state. On review, the Texas Supreme Court first analyzed the different standards of civil liability presented by each party. The core issue was whether there is a “knowing” standard that must be applied. The Court ultimately relied on an additional section in the Agriculture Code which provided guidance as to which standard prevails. The Legislature decided that section 143.102, including its heightened mental-state component, “prevails to the extent of any conflict with another provision of this chapter.” Id. §143.107 The Court concluded that section 143.102 of the Agriculture Code provides the only applicable standard of civil liability for this claim. Based on that, Garcia failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Pruski knowingly permitted his livestock to run at large. Thus, the judgment of the court of appeals was reversed in part, and summary judgment for the defendant was reinstated on all claims.