Texas Supreme Court Argument Preview (10/15/14)

On Wednesday, October 15, the Texas Supreme Court will hear argument in 3 cases. Arguments begin at 9:00 am, and you can watch the argument live (or view video after the fact) by clicking here. No. 13-0199, Steadfast Financial LLC v. Bradshaw – This is an oil & gas royalty dispute in which a non-participating royalty owner sued the owner of the executive right for failure to obtain a higher royalty interest in a new mineral lease. The non-participating royalty owner contends that the executive-rights owner has a duty under the deed at issue to obtain the going rate for royalties, which she claims is higher than the executive-rights owner obtained. The primary issues are (1) the extent of the executive-rights owners’ duties to the non-participating royalty owners; (2) whether the executive-rights owners’ duties can be modified by contract; (3) whether a constructive trust can be imposed on the interests of other royalty owners (who obtained their interests from the executive-rights owner); (4) whether the non-participating royalty owner can maintain a claim for fraudulent transfer for the interests that the executive-rights owner transferred to others; and (5) whether the lessor can be liable for aiding and abetting, conspiracy, or other theory of derivative liability.No. 13-0236, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Murphy – This case involves a home foreclosure. One issue is whether the home-equity lending provisions in the Texas Constitution prohibit homeowners from being personally liable for attorney’s fees in a declaratory-judgment claim for default. Another issue is whether the court of appeals improperly reframed the declaratory-judgment claim as an injunction claim.No. 13-0605, Brown & Gay Engineering Inc. v. Olivares – The issue is whether an engineering firm that was a contractor for a county toll road authority is protected by the authority’s governmental immunity. The court of appeals held that it is not because the contractor was not an “employee” of the toll road authority. – Rich Phillips, Thompson & Knight