Texas Supreme Court Orders 10/3/14 (Six Petitions Granted)

Because there are no opinions and no grants in the Supreme Court’s order list this morning, this is a good opportunity for me to do the promised post on the petitions granted in the October 3, 2014 order list.The Court granted six petitions for review:No. 12-0987, Gharda USA, Inc. v. Control Solutions, Inc. – This is a suit for damages caused by a fire at a warehouse and office building. The primary issue is whether the expert testimony presented at trial is legally sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict that the fire was caused by the defendants’ chemicals stored in the building. The trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the court of appeals reversed in a 2-1 decision. Oral argument will be heard on December 10, 2014.No. 13-0584, Southwestern Bell Telephone L.P.  d/b/a AT&T Texas v. Emmett – This case involves the construction of Texas Water Code § 49.223, which requires a flood control district to pay for relocation of utilities required by, among other things, alteration by the district of any bridge. AT&T Texas contends that the Harris County Flood Control District made necessary the relocation of AT&T Texas’s equipment from a bridge because the bridge was being demolished. Harris County and the City of Houston contend that the statute does not apply because it is the City, not the flood control district, that made the relocation necessary. Oral argument has been scheduled for December 10, 2014.No. 13-0593, Texas Student Housing Authority v. Brazos County Appraisal District – In this property tax dispute, Texas Student Housing Authority contends that its property is exempt from taxation under Texas Tax Code § 11.11 and Texas Education Code § 53.46. The taxing authority contends that the exemption was forfeited for certain years because the property was made available to Texas A&M University for housing of participants in university-sponsored summer programs. The trial court agreed with the taxing authorities. The court of appeals reversed as to one year and affirmed as to others. Both parties filed petitions for review. Argument has been set for December 10, 2014.No. 13-0711, JAW the Pointe, LLC v. Lexington Insurance Co. – This insurance coverage dispute involves construction of two endorsements to the policy: the “Ordinance or Law” endorsement and the “Demolition and Increased Cost of Construction” endorsement. The owners of an apartment complex in Galveston were not permitted by City ordinance to simply repair the complex after Hurricane Ike. Because of the extent of the damage, the City required that the complex be demolished and rebuilt to current code requirements. The primary issue is whether that loss was covered by the primary insurance policy, which had an exclusion for flood damage and an anti-concurrent loss provision. The insured contends that the anti-concurrent loss provision does not apply because the damage from wind (a covered loss) was sufficient alone to trigger the City’s requirement to demolish and rebuild. Argument has been set for January 13, 2015.No. 13-0967, S.A.S. and L.O.S. v. Bryant – This is a DTPA case with difficult facts. The petitioners contend that they hired the respondent’s son to babysit their children based on alleged misrepresentations about his qualifications. The son sexually assaulted the children while babysitting them. Following a jury trial, the trial court entered judgment for the parents on their DTPA claim. The court of appeals reversed, finding that the alleged misrepresentations about the son’s qualifications as a babysitter were not a producing cause of the damages because the assaults did not begin until after the son had been hired at least twice to babysit and decisions to continue hiring him were not related to the alleged misrepresentations about his qualifications. The court of appeals relied on the Supreme Court’s holding in Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472 (Tex. 1995) for the proposition that “representations about character and fitness cannot impose third-party liability for the criminal conduct of another, when the criminal conduct happens independently.” Argument has been set for January 13, 2015.No. 14-0095, Ventling v. Johnson – This case arises from a 1995 agreed divorce decree relating to a common-law marriage. The issues presented relate to the calculation of post-judgment interest in a procedurally complicated case. The 1995 agreed decree included a contractual agreement for the payment alimony. Two years later, the former husband argued that the decree was void because there was no marriage and that the trial court retained plenary power over the decree because the 1995 order was interlocutory. In a 1998 order, the trial court agreed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the divorce decree was regular on its face and not void. On remand, the trial court rendered judgment for the former husband because the former wife had by then stipulated that there had been no marriage. The court of appeals again reversed, holding that its prior decision established law of the case that the agreed decree was enforceable. On remand, the trial court enforced the 1995 decree and awarded post-judgment interest from the date of judgment on remand. On appeal from that order (the third appeal), the court of appeals held that post-judgment interest should have begun accruing as of the date of the 1998 judgment. The former husband challenges that portion of the court of appeals judgment as well as the order that he pay attorneys’ fees. Argument has been set for January 13, 2015.- Rich Phillips, Thompson & Knight