The Texas Supreme Court handed down opinions in six cases in this morning’s order list and — in perfect balance — selected six new cases to be heard at oral argument later this spring.

Today’s Decisions

Today I’m letting the Court write the summaries for me…

  • Exxon Corp. v. Emerald Oil & Gas Co., No. 05‑0729 and the companion case Exxon Corp. v. Emerald Oil & Gas Co., No. 05‑1076. Justice Wainwright wrote for the Court. Justice O’Neill did not sit on these cases.

    “In this oil and gas dispute, we determine whether section 85.321 of the Texas Natural Resources Code allows a subsequent mineral lessee to maintain a cause of action against a prior lessee for damages to the subsequent lessee’s interest. We hold that section 85.321 creates a private cause of action that does not extend to subsequent lessees. Because the plaintiff in this case owned no interest in the mineral leases when the prior lessee allegedly damaged the interest, the plaintiff lacks standing to assert a cause of action under section 85.321.”

  • Prodigy Communications Corp. v. Agricultural Excess & Surplus Ins. Co., No. 06‑0598. The Chief Justice wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices O’Neill, Wainwright, Brister, Medina, and Green. Justice Wainwright also wrote a separate concurring opinion expressing his acquiescence in today’s result although he had originally dissented in PAJ, the key case. Three Justices dissented, with the dissenting opinion written by Justice Johnson joined by Justice Hecht and Justice Willett.

    “Today, we decide whether PAJ’s notice-prejudice rule applies to a claims-made policy when the notice provision requires that the insured, ‘as a condition precedent’ to its rights under the policy, give notice of a claim to its insurer ‘as soon as practicable . . ., but in no event later than ninety (90) days after the expiration of the Policy Period or Discovery Period.’ The parties dispute whether notice of the claim was given ‘as soon as practicable’ but agree that the insured gave notice within the ninety-day cutoff period. The insurer also admits that it was not prejudiced by the delayed notice.”

    “For the reasons explained below, we conclude that “notice as soon as practicable” was not an essential part of the bargained-for exchange under the claims-made policy at issue here. Following PAJ, we hold that, in the absence of prejudice to the insurer, the insured’s alleged failure to comply with the provision does not defeat coverage.”

  • Financial Industries Corp. v. XL Specialty Ins. Co., No. 07‑1059. The Court was answering a certified question from the Fifth Circuit. The opinion was authored by the Chief Justice.

    “[W]e answer the following question: ‘Must an insurer show prejudice to deny payment on a claims-made policy, when the denial is based upon the insured’s breach of the policy’s prompt-notice provision, but the notice is nevertheless given within the policy’s coverage period?'”

    “For the reasons stated above and explained more fully in Prodigy Communications Corp. v. Agricultural Excess & Surplus Insurance Co., … we answer the certified question in the affirmative…”

  • Progressive County Mutual Ins. Co. v. Regan Kelley, No. 08‑0073 (per curiam).

    “In this case, we consider whether two documents issued by an insurance company constitute two separate insurance policies or a single policy. We hold that this is a fact question and remand to the trial court.”

  • Emmanuel Ginn, et al. v. Jeff Forester, et al., No. 08‑0163 (per curiam)

    “A restricted appeal requires error that is apparent on the face of the record; error that is merely inferred will not suffice. In this case, the clerk’s supplemental record contains a notation that the clerk’s office was unable to locate documents indicating notice was sent … Because the clerk has no affirmative duty to record the giving of notice, however, a statement that the record reflects none cannot establish error on the face of the record. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render judgment dismissing the case.”

New Cases Selected for Oral Argument

The Court has not yet chosen the date or time for these arguments.

  • Regal Finance co., v. Tex Star Motors, Inc., No. 08‑0148, out of the Fourteenth Court (DB)

  • Tangie Walters v. Cleveland Regional Medical Center, No. 08‑0169, out of the First Court (DB)

  • Methodist Healthcare System of San Antonio, Ltd. v. Emmalene Rankin, No. 08‑0316 (DB)

  • NAFTA Traders, Inc. v. Margaret A. Quinn, No. 08‑0613 (DB)

  • In re Scoggins Construction Co., No. 08‑0544 (DB)

  • In re Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc., No. 08‑0660 (DB)

Other Items of Note

Justice Brister noted his dissent to the Court’s denial of review in State of Texas v. $130,510.00 in Lawful Currency, No. 08-0883 (DB).

I wrote a few weeks back about how one of the bills pending in the Legislature to “open up” the Court’s vote process may be unnecessary or even counterproductive when the Justices already have this ability to note their views for the public record.