Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court
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Category: 'Order Lists'

A slip-and-fall in a hospital is not a health-care claim; two new grants [May 1, 2015]

May 1st, 2015 · No Comments

With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in one case. The Court also chose two other cases for future oral argument.

Opinions

A slip-and-fall in a hospital does not qualify as a “health care liability” claim

A visitor to a hospital slipped and fell in the lobby. When she sued, the hospital moved to dismiss on the ground that she had failed to timely submit an expert report as would be required for a health-care liability claim.

The trial court agreed, dismissing the claim. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that under TEXAS WEST OAKS HOSPITAL, LP AND TEXAS HOSPITAL HOLDINGS, LLC v. FREDERICK WILLIAMS, No. 10-0603 there need not be a connection between the safety standard in question and the actual provision of health care.

The Texas Supreme Court granted review and, now, reverses, holding that:

for a safety standards-based claim to be an HCLC there must be a substantive nexus between the safety standards allegedly violated and the provision of health care. And that nexus must be more than a "but for” relationship. That is, the fact that Ross, a visitor and not a patient, would not have been injured but for her falling inside the hospital is not a sufficient relationship .... The pivotal issue in a safety standards-based claim is whether the standards on which the claim is based implicate the defendant’s duties as a health care provider, including its duties to provide for patient safety.

The Court rooted this holding in doctrines of statutory construction that look ot the overall structure of the law ("the purpose of the statute, the context of the language at issue"). It noted, in particular, that the reading urged by the hospital would result in a situation where defendants had "a special procedural advantage [in all suits] in the guise of requiring plaintiffs to file expert reports." The Court declined to read the statute as conferring benefits based on the identity of the defendant, rather than the nature of the duty. ("We do not believe the Legislature intended the statute to have such arbitrary results.")

As for how to apply this construction, the Court listed seven "non-exclusive considerations":

  1. Did the alleged negligence of the defendant occur in the course of the defendant’s performing tasks with the purpose of protecting patients from harm;
  2. Did the injuries occur in a place where patients might be during the time they were receiving care, so that the obligation of the provider to protect persons who require special, medical care was implicated;
  3. At the time of the injury was the claimant in the process of seeking or receiving health care;
  4. At the time of the injury was the claimant providing or assisting in providing health care;
  5. Is the alleged negligence based on safety standards arising from professional duties owed by the health care provider;
  6. If an instrumentality was involved in the defendant’s alleged negligence, was it a type used in providing health care; or
  7. Did the alleged negligence occur in the course of the defendant’s taking action or failing to take action necessary to comply with safety-related requirements set for health care providers by governmental or accrediting agencies?

The Court acknowledged that "the line between a safety standards-based claim that is not a[ health-care liability claim] and one that is ... may not always be clear." On this record, as it turns out, all seven of those considerations favored the plaintiff.

The opinion of the Court does not offer explicit guidance about how lower courts should deal with a situation in which these considerations point in different directions. The concurring opinion (written by Justice Lehrmann and joined by Justice Devine) argues that, when such a situation arises, two of the considerations (the third and fifth) should be viewed as more important than the others because they focus most directly on the relationship between patient and doctor.

Grants

Do leave-of-absence policies bar workers compensation retaliation claims?

KINGSAIRE, INC. D/B/A KINGS AIRE, INC. v. JORGE MELENDEZ, No. 14-0006

Chosen for future argument by order issued May 1, 2015

An injured employee, absent from work, was classified by his employer as being on FMLA leave. According to the employer’s company policy, that type of family and medical leave cannot last longer than 12 weeks. When the employee did not return at the end of that period, the employer immediately fired them.

When the employee sued for retaliatory discharge under Chapter 451 of the workers’ compensation law, the employer argued that its company leave-of-absence policy was uniformly applied and, thus, legally barred a claim for retaliatory discharge. Alternatively, the employer argued that the jury hearing that retaliation claim should have been asked about this defense or given an instruction about the legal effect of its leave-of-absence policy.

The trial court sided with the employee. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the company’s leave-of-absence policy did not create a legal presumption. The Supreme Court has granted the employer’s petition and will consider the issue.

Are loss-of-use or lost-profit damages available when a business vehicle is totaled?

J&D TOWING, LLC v. AMERICAN ALTERNATIVE INSURANCE CORPORATION, No. 14-0574

Chosen for future argument by order issued May 1, 2015

The case involves a tow truck that was rendered a total loss by a vehicle accident. The truck was the sole vehicle used by a small towing company. The towing company reached a settlement with the other driver that would compensate it for the market value of the lost truck, but that driver’s policy limits ($25,000) did not permit recovery for additional damages. The towing company then sued its own insurance carrier, arguing that its uninsured/underinsured motorist protection should also cover the company’s damages from loss-of-use of the truck.

The district court ruled in favor of the towing company, rendering a judgment of $22,500 in additional damages. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Texas law bars any recovery for this type of consequential loss-of-use damages when a piece of property is damaged beyond repair.

The towing company filed a petition for review, arguing that there is a split in Texas law on this question. The Texas Supreme Court has now granted the petition.

Tags: Order Lists

Thirteen cases decided; no grants [Apr. 24, 2015]

April 24th, 2015 · Comments Off

With this week’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court released opinions in thirteen pending cases.

For those of you keeping score at home:

  • Justice Lehrmann’s four majority opinions today puts her in the lead on this Term’s leaderboard.

  • The one separate opinion issued today — an opinion concurring in judgment authored by Justice Hecht — brings the Court’s total to eight such opinions this Term. If the pattern holds from last Term, the bulk of the divided cases will be resolved in the summer. (I would have said “the most divided cases,” but they may not be able to top UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT ARLINGTON v. SANDRA WILLIAMS AND STEVE WILLIAMS, No. 13-0338 , issued in March.)

  • Three of today’s cases led to affirmances.

When issue summaries are ready, they will appear on this page. You can also follow the links below to reach each opinion:

When the State condemns land containing a billboard, what compensation is due?
The most current summary describes this event:
Set to be argued on September 17, 2014

In this case, the State (supported by some local governments) challenges how billboards were valued in condemnation. The landowners contend that the installed billboards are part of the realty warranting compensation for their lost income. The State argues that they should, instead, be seen as a type of personal property that can be relocated away from the property being condemned.

Previously:
Previously:
  • Three opinions, one grant (June 16, 2014)
  • Compounding pharmacies under the health-care-liability act
    The most current summary describes this event:
    Set to be argued on January 14, 2015

    This is a claim against a compounding pharmacy based on an antioxidant supplement. The supplement was provided to a doctor's office, which then provided it to patients. The pharmacy argued that this was a health-care-liability claim and, accordingly, should be dismissed because no expert report was timely filed. The plaintiff argues that filling what the response calls a "bulk" order for these supplements is not filling a prescription and does not fit the statute.

    Tags: Order Lists

    Two opinions: Texas’s limits on arbitration clauses in medical contracts struck down; the duty of good faith within oil and gas royalty interests [Mar. 6, 2015]

    March 6th, 2015 · Comments Off

    With today’s orders list, the Supreme Court issued two substantive opinions, two per curiam reversals (applying one of today’s more substantive opinions), and formally accepted a certified question from the Fifth Circuit about exemplary damages.

    The Court granted a request to reschedule oral argument in BCCA APPEAL GROUP, INC. v. CITY OF HOUSTON, TEXAS, No. 13-0768 , which had been set for March 25. The new argument date has not yet been set.

    Opinions

    Duties between participants in an oil-and-gas royalty interest

    A summary will be added in the next few days

    Previously:
  • A day for certified questions (September 26, 2014)
  • Statute that limits doctors from using arbitration clauses is preempted

    In the past decade, it only seemed that the Texas Supreme Court had already decided every permutation of health-care liability claim and every challenge to an arbitration clause. What happens when one case presents both — a challenge to the Texas law that restricts doctors and other health-care providers who might try to insert arbitration clauses in their contracts?

    The Texas statute is Section 74.451 of the CIvil Practice and Remedies Code, which imposes some strict requirements on any arbitration clause between a health-care provider and a patient. There was no dispute in this case that the defendant nursing home (Fredericksburg) failed to meet those requirements, so if the Texas law applied, the arbitration clause it demanded of patients would be unenforceable. On its side, the Federal Arbitration Act generally preempts state laws such as this one that impose heightened requirements on the validity of arbitration clauses, at least for contracts involving interstate commerce.1

    The wrinkle here is that Congress has generally permitted states, not the federal government, to take the lead in regulating insurance. Within the upside-down world of insurance, the doctrine of federal preemption yields (by virtue of the McCarran-Ferguson Act or "MFA") so that insurance-specific state laws can, in that limited sphere, be supreme over a generally applicable federal law.

    The Texas Supreme Court's opinion focused, therefore, on whether Section 74.451 was a law that fit within the MFA. The question is whether it was a "law enacted by [the] State for the purpose of regulating the business of insurance." 15 U.S.C. §1012(b). If so, it could survive preemption. If not, it would be preempted.

    The bulk of the Court's analysis focuses on legislative "purpose." Looking at the statute as a whole, the Court concluded that its purpose is not direclty related to the relationship between insurance companies and their insureds ("the business of insurance"). The Court acknowledged that one of the broader goals was to lower health-care costs by, among other things, lower premiums for malpractice insurance. But the Court concluded that was too attenuated to satisfy the U.S. Supreme Court's test. (The U.S. Supreme Court has distinguished the "business of insurance" from the "business of insurance companies," which basically asks whether the regulation is about paperwork or profits. If the goal is to reduce an insurer's costs and maybe get a trickle-down reduction in premiums, then it's the latter category and too attenuated.) And even zooming to focus just on Section 74.451, the picture would be the same. That provision says nothing about insurance directly but instead talks about the relationship between doctor and patient.

    Section 74.451 is, the Court held, preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act for any health-care contracts that affect interstate commerce.

    So, does a health-care provider now have to choose between demanding arbitration and the procedural protections they fought so hard for in 2003 (with mandatory expert reports and interlocutory appeals)? Maybe not. With this new hybrid category of arbitration and health-care liabilty appeals, a whole new world of permutations beckons. Who will be the first defendant to wait for the expert report deadline, file an interlocutory appeal challenging its adequacy, and after losing that appeal, demand arbitration — perhaps triggering a second interlocutory appeal?


    1. That may be nearly every defendant of any size, in our era of third-party-payor health care. As the Court explains, even accepting Medicare payments can bring a provider within the bounds of the FAA. 

    The Court also issued short per curiam opinions in two related cases, in each reversing based on today’s opinion in THE FREDERICKSBURG CARE COMPANY, L.P. v. JUANITA PEREZ, VIRGINIA GARCIA, PAUL ZAPATA..., No. 13-0573 :

    Tags: Order Lists

    Two opinions, including one about whether limitations bars suing a partner over partnership debts [Feb. 27, 2015]

    February 27th, 2015 · Comments Off

    With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in two pending cases. It did not select any new cases for oral argument.

    Among the orders, the Court granted the State’s request to appear as amicus curiae to argue in MIRTA ZORRILLA v. AYPCO CONSTRUCTION II, LLC AND JORGE LUIS MUNOZ, No. 14-0067 , a case about the exemplary damages provisions in Chapter 41.

    Opinions

    Plaintiffs suing a partnership can wait until after judgment to seek recovery from individual partners

    When a plaintiff sues a partnership, must they immediately join the individual partners as defendants or risk having no recourse if the partnership entity turns out to be insolvent?

    The underlying contract claim was brought against the partnership itself and, after about a decade of litigation, resulted in a judgment of liability that exceeded the partnership's own assets. The plaintiffs then turned to the individual partners for satisfaction, under the principle that they are jointly and severally liable for the partnership entity's debts. The partners invoked limitations, arguing that the clock had expired years before when they were not joined in the original action.

    The Court held that limitations did not bar this post-judgment claim by a judgment creditor against individual partners.

    It noted that the plaintiff could have sued the partners at the outset. And it acknowledged the general principle that a claim "accrues" when it could be brought. But, as the Court explained, the structure of this claim warranted a different result. The Court looked to the provisions of the Texas Revised Partnership Act, which makes this kind of liability contingent on there being a judgment entered against the partnership entity and on the entity failing to pay for 90 days. These features, the Court held, made this kind of statutory claim against individual partners more akin to indemnification than more typical tort or contract claims. Thus, the Court held, the claims were not barred by limitations.

    When does this limitations clock start to run? Is it at the time judgment is entered against the partnership, when any appeal of that judgment is complete, or at some other time? This case did not require finely tuning that answer. The Court suggests that the limitations clock actually begins to run only when the judgment can be collected against an individual partner, which might mean 90 days after the judgment can be executed. So, a supersedeas filing may, it appears, have the side effect of extending the limitations period for collection claims against individual partners.

    The Workers' Comp statute precludes courts from addressing causes of action related to claims handling, even if framed as tort or statutory claims

    A claimant for workers' compensation benefits brought a separate lawsuit against the carrier and some of its employees, contending that the way they had handled his claims independently violated tort and statutory duties, for which he sought damages.

    The Division of Workers' Compensation has exclusive jurisiction over the underlying claim for workers' compensation benefits. Does that exclusive grant of jurisdiction extend to these other claims, which might fall outside of its ability to grant relief?

    The Court held that it does. It explained that its previous decision in TEXAS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY v. TIMOTHY J. RUTTIGER, No. 08-0751 established a broad field of preemption for workers compensation, including challenges to the "investigation, handling, and settling" of claims for these benefits. The Court explained that Ruttiger was not to be read narrowly and, thus, that the claims here fell within the agency's exclusive jurisdiction.

    Tags: Order Lists

    Eight grants of review for oral argument in March [Feb. 20, 2015]

    February 20th, 2015 · Comments Off

    With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court granted review in eight cases to be heard in March. It did not issue any opinions.

    The first two petitions on this grant list have the added distinction of being grants of rehearing. The Court originally denied both on October 3, 2014. Today’s orders reinstate them and set them for argument.

    Details about each case will appear in this blog post as they are added to my system.

    Grants of Review and Rehearing

    KACHINA PIPELINE COMPANY, INC. v. MICHAEL D. LILLIS, No. 13-0596

    Set to be argued on March 24, 2015

    Grants

    BCCA APPEAL GROUP, INC. v. CITY OF HOUSTON, TEXAS, No. 13-0768

    Chosen for future argument by order issued February 20, 2015

    ROYSTON, RAYZOR, VICKERY, & WILLIAMS, LLP v. FRANCISCO (FRANK) LOPEZ, No. 13-1026

    Set to be argued on March 26, 2015

    MIRTA ZORRILLA v. AYPCO CONSTRUCTION II, LLC AND JORGE LUIS MUNOZ, No. 14-0067

    Set to be argued on March 26, 2015

    IN RE ROYSTON, RAYZOR, VICKERY, & WILLIAMS, LLP, No. 14-0109

    Set to be argued on March 26, 2015

    Tags: Order Lists

    Admissibility of seat-belt evidence in accident cases; Insurance coverage for the BP oil spill [Feb. 13, 2015]

    February 13th, 2015 · Comments Off

    With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in two cases. It did not choose any new cases for review.

    Opinions

    Evidence about seat-belt use is now admissible in auto accident cases

    In 1974, the Court ruled that evidence about whether a car’s occupant was wearing a seat belt was not admissible in an auto-accident case. Carnation Co. v. Wong, 516 S.W.2d 116 (Tex. 1974). Today, the Court overrules that decision.

    It explained that the legal background motivating that rule had changed. First, Texas no longer has a contributory-negligence system, under which a plaintiff could be absolutely barred from recovery if they were even the slightest degree negligent. It now has a system of comparative negligence, with a plaintiff’s recovery merely reduced by the percentage of their own fault — unless that fault exceed 50%.1

    Second, the Court noted that mandatory seat-belt laws began, and became more strict, after its 1974 ruling. Given that change, the Court referred to its prior holding as “a vestige of a bygone legal system and an oddity in light of modern societal norms.”

    The Court rejected the argument that intervening statutes had, implicitly through silence, approved the blanket rule against the admission of seatbelt evidence. In 1985, while approving Texas’s first mandatory-seatbelt law, the Legislature had passed a prohibition on the admission of evidence about seatbelt use that was even broader than the Court’s. But in 2003, the Legislature repealed that provision while making other changes. The Court saw this repeal — without adding other language about the seat-belt question — as the Legislature choosing for its part to be silent. Thus, the Court rejected the argument that the Legislature had weighed in either way.

    The Court holds that normal rules of evidence should apply, leaving the details to be sorted out in the usual way:

    Today’s holding opens the door to a category of evidence that has never been part of our negligence cases, but we need not lay down a treatise on how and when such evidence should be admitted. Seat-belt evidence has been unique only in that it has been categorically prohibited in negligence cases. With that prohibition lifted, our rules of evidence include everything necessary to handle the admissibility of seat-belt evidence. As with any evidence, seat-belt evidence is admissible only if it is relevant. … The defendant can establish the relevance of seat-belt nonuse only with evidence that nonuse caused or contributed to cause the plaintiff’s injuries. And the trial court should first consider this evidence, for the purpose of making its relevance determination, outside the presence of the jury. … Expert testimony will often be required to establish relevance, but we decline to say it will be required in all cases. And, of course, like any other evidence, even relevant seat-belt evidence is subject to objection and exclusion under Rule 403.

    The Court also considered how this should be handled for children who are not wearing seat belts, concluding that it can be proper for a jury to consider both whether an adult in the car bears some responsibility for that injury, as well as whether the child was acting as would an “ordinarily prudent child of [the same] age, intelligence, experience and capacity.”

    And the Court addressed whether the jury should be asked who caused the accident (what the Court calls “occurrence-causing conduct) and then asked separately who caused each person’s injury (“injury-causing conduct”). The Court said no, that both kinds of fault should be folded into a single apportionment question. “There is nothing about injury-causing conduct that renders it incompatible with being considered alongside occurrence-causing conduct in one responsibility apportionment for the harm suffered by the plaintiff.”


    1. The facts involve a collision in which multiple passengers were ejected from a car, including children, and there is conflicting evidence about which adults or children were wearing seatbelts. Even without hearing evidence of seat-belt use, the jury assessed fault for the accident as being 51% to the trucking company and 49% to the family-car driver. Even with the reduction, the family’s award here was $2.3 million. 

    Previously:
    BP does not have insurance coverage as an "additional insured" under the policy purchased by Transocean

    In 2010, a drilling rig owned by Transocean and developed by BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to months of subsurface oil leakage, damage to coastal communities and industries, and other serious claims. In the parties’ drilling contract, Transocean was to be responsible for above-surface pollution risks while BP was to be responsible for subsurface pollution risks. Another provision of the contract required Transocean to provide "additional insured" protection to BP.

    BP sued over the scope of this "additional insured" coverage, arguing that Transocean’s insurers must cover BP’s losses, regardless whether the specific cause was above or below the surface.

    The Fifth Circuit originally ruled in favor of BP, concluding that the insurance policy itself did not limit the scope of coverage afforded to BP and that, under EVANSTON INSURANCE COMPANY v. ATOFINA PETROCHEMICALS, INC., No. 03-0647, it should not look beyond the text of that document to find a limitation to coverage. On rehearing, however, the Fifth Circuit withdrew its opinion and chose to certify this question to the Texas Supreme Court to authoritatively address two questions under Texas law:

    1. Does ATOFINA compel a finding that BP is covered for these damages?

    2. Does the doctrine of contra proferentem (that is, construing a contract against the person who drafted it) apply even in a sophisticated commercial context?

    The Texas Supreme Court reached the opposite result, basing its decision on a less restrictive reading of ATOFINA, one that is compatible with the idea that an insurance policy can effectively “incorporate” another document needed to understand its scope:

    Texas law has long allowed insurance policies to incorporate other documents by reference, and policy language dictates the extent to which another document is so incorporated. The policies here provide additional-insured coverage automatically where required and as obligated by written contract in which an insured has agreed to assume the tort liability of another party. Because BP is not named as an insured in the Transocean policies or any certificates of insurance, the insurance policies direct us to the additional-insured provision in the Drilling Contract to determine the existence and scope of coverage. Applying the only reasonable construction of that provision, we conclude that, as it pertains to the damages at issue, BP is an additional insured under the Transocean policies only to the extent of the liability Transocean assumed for above-surface pollution.

    Having concluded that BP is covered by Transocean’s policies only to the extent that the drilling contract required, the Court answered the first question no, that there is no coverage.

    The Court did not reach the second question about the contra preferentum doctrine because that rule applies only to ambiguous text, and it saw no ambiguity here.

    Tags: News and Links · Order Lists

    Three decided cases and nine grants [Jan. 30, 2015]

    January 30th, 2015 · Comments Off

    With this orders list, the Court issued opinions resolving three cases and granted nine cases for oral argument.

    This flurry of grants gives the Court a complete argument calendar for late February and begins to fill a (new) argument week scheduled for late March.1

    Opinions

    The effect on a statute of limitations when public records are tainted by fraud

    A mineral owner sued the operator for fraud that occurred more than four years before suit, the effects of which continued in the stream of payments to the current day. The operator responded with, among other arguments, a limitations defense. The mineral owner contended that the discovery rule should have tolled that limitations period because it reasonably relied on the operator's representations. The operator contends that any such reliance was unreasonable because Railroad Commission records contained the needed information.

    The opinion discussed whether "reasonable diligence" is one of fact or law, answering that it's ultimately one of fact but that there are categories of evidence — including some public records — that put a party conclusively on notice, thus starting the clock for limitations.

    The Court distinguished those public-record cases because, here, the fraud had also "tainted" the integrity of the public records, with allegedly false information being included in the latest filings. Although the defendant contended that comparing these later records with earlier records should have put someone on notice of the fraud, the Court held that would require too much to be "reasonable diligence" as a matter of law.

    Among the other issues, the Court interpreted the parties' "most favored nations" clause for royalty payments. The court of appeals had held this clause was not violated when the State in effect received preferential royalty payments because the State was not a market actor and thus the policy concerns were somewhat different. The Supreme Court held that the contract text did not draw such a distinction and, thus, that the contract had been breached.

    Previously:
  • Three opinions, one grant (June 16, 2014)
  • The special role of the Attorney General in reporting child-support issues to a federal database

    Can a trial court reviewing allegations of family violence affecting child custody have, along with that, order OAG to change how it has flagged the case file in a federal database?

    Although the Court’s analysis dealt with a federal regulatory system, it approached this question as a matter of state statutory interpretation. The relevant list of statutory remedies included a catch-all provision “any other order.” The Court emphasized that it was evaluating that phrase within the larger context, not taken in isolation.

    When construing statutes, or anything else, one cannot divorce text from context. The meaning of words read in isolation is frequently contrary to the meaning of words read contextually in light of what surrounds them. Given the enormous power of context to transform the meaning of language, courts should resist rulings anchored in hyper-technical readings of isolated words or phrases. The import of language, plain or not, must be drawn from the surrounding context, particularly when construing everyday words and phrases that are inordinately context-sensitive.

    Against that background, the Court explained that Texas had designed the Office of Attorney General as its “Title IV-D agency, [which] must collect, store, and maintain” certain information required by federal law — information that included this flag.

    The Court concluded that the phrase “any other order” was not meant to upset this balance, nor did it create a distinct right to judicial review under state law of the agency’s decision whether to flag the file in the federal database.

    An unresolved request for UDJA fees can undermine the finality of a summary judgment

    The Court dealt with what it called “the familiar issue of whether a trial court’s order ... is final for purposes of appeal.” This order came after a motion for summary judgment by an insurer (Farm Bureau), in which the trial court denied relief and ruled that the insurer did have a duty to cover the claims. Although both sides had requested attorney’s fees, the order made no mention of those requests — but it did contain a “Mother Hubbard” clause and made an award of court costs. Farm Bureau appealed the merits.

    The court of appeals dismissed for want of jurisdiction, reasoning that the order could not be a final judgment because there was not a formal cross-motion for summary judgment filed by the insured. The Supreme Court disagreed that the lack of an underlying motion would deprive the judgment of force. Quoting its own decision in Lehmann v. Har-Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191 (Tex. 2001), the Court explained that “[i]f the trial court’s intent to enter a final judgment is ‘clear from the order, then the order is final and appealable, even though the record does not provide an adequate basis for rendition of judgment.’ In that case, ‘the judgment is final—erroneous, but final.’” So that basis would not defeat jurisdiction here.

    But the Supreme Court saw a second problem with jurisdiction, namely, that the trial court had not ruled on attorney’s fees. In contrast to the merits issue — where the order spoke directly to the claims — there was no mention of attorney’s fees in the order and no other indication in the record that the trial court’s order was meant to resolve the question of fees. “In the absence of evidence of the trial court’s intent with respect to the parties’ claims for attorney’s fees, we find that the trial court’s order did not dispose of all parties and claims.”

    Grants

    For late February

    PLAINS EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION COMPANY v. TORCH ENERGY ADVISORS INCORPORATED, No. 13-0597

    Set to be argued on February 24, 2015

    IN RE LONGVIEW ENERGY COMPANY, No. 14-0175

    Set to be argued on February 25, 2015

    JLG TRUCKING, LLC v. LAUREN R. GARZA, No. 13-0978

    Set to be argued on February 26, 2015

    For late March

    1. The Court calendar had an early February argument sitting, but no cases were ever scheduled for that week. []

    Tags: Order Lists

    SCOTX to decide the future of Texas school finance [Jan. 23, 2015]

    January 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off

    The big item on today’s otherwise quiet orders list is the Court formally accepting a case about the Texas school-finance system.

    Schedule set in school finance cases

    The Court has now formally said that it will hear this "direct appeal" of the school finance ruling that held certain portions of the system unconstitutional.

    The Court has agreed to the briefing schedule suggested by the parties, which puts the briefs due on April 13, 2015 (for the State and others challenging the judgment); July 2, 2015 (for those defending the judgment); and a reply on August 11, 2015 (for the State and others challenging the judgment).

    That briefing schedule extends beyond the July 1, 2015 deadline set by the trial court's order. The State's motion states its belief that this deadline was suspended automatically by the appeal.

    The briefing schedule also permits the Legislature to finish its session (and perhaps even a special session). Both sides will have an opportunity to address how any new legislation might affect this case.

    Based on this schedule, I would expect the Court to hear oral argument in September 2015.

    The briefing so far just consists of very short notices of appeal ("jurisdictional statements") filed by four groups challenging aspects of the judgment below:

    • the State Defendants (the commissioner of education and others)

    • a group led by the Texas Charter School Association

    • a group led by the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition

    • a group of six school districts that have broken with the main group of plaintiffs (Calhoun ISD, Abernathy ISD, Aransas ISD, Frisco ISD, Lewisville ISD, and Richardson ISD)

    Tags: Order Lists