Texas Supreme Court opinions (5/8/15), part 1

  Posted by Scott Stolley, Thompson & Knight  As I reported on Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued 12 opinions on May 8, 2015. In this post, I will summarize six of the opinions, while Rich will do a separate post about the other six.No. 12-0255, Phillips v. Carlton Energy Group, LLC — This case involves tortious interference with a venture to develop a gas field. The Supreme Court first held that there is some evidence to support the jury’s finding that Phillips tortiously interfered. The Court next found no evidence to support two different fair-market valuations offered by Carlton, because they were too speculative concerning the amount of gas that could be produced. But the Court found that a market value could be extrapolated based on Phillips’s agreement to pay $8.5 million for a 10% interest in the venture. Finally, applying Nevada law, the Court found that two of Phillips’s entities had alter-ego liability.No. 13-0042, Genie Indus., Inc. v. Matak — This is a product-liability case involving an  aerial lift that tipped over, killing the occupant. The lift was fully extended to its 40-foot height, and a worker on the ground, in violation of product warnings, raised two of the stabilizing outriggers in an effort to move the lift while it was still extended. The Court found weak evidence, but more than a scintilla, of a safer alternative design. But the Court then held that there was no evidence that the lift was unreasonably dangerous.No. 13-0080, RSUI Indemnity Co. v. The Lynd Co. — This case involves an excess policy providing first-party property coverage for multiple properties on a schedule. At issue was the interpretation of the alternative damages limits set forth in an endorsement entitled “Scheduled Limit of Liability.” When a hurricane damaged 15 properties, the insurer measured the loss by applying the different damages limits property-by-property in a way that resulted in the lowest aggregate covered loss. The insured argued that the insurer could not pick and choose as to each property, but had to apply one damages limit to the aggregate loss. The Court held that each party offered a reasonable interpretation, making the endorsement ambiguous, and thereby requiring that it be read in the insured’s favor. No. 14-0175, In re Longview Energy Co. — The court of appeals had ruled that the defendants could post a joint  supersedeas bond in the statutorily capped amount of $25 million (rather than each defendant posting a capped bond of $25 million). The Supreme Court ruled that it did not have to reach this issue, because the Court characterized the monetary award as disgorgement, which is not “compensatory damages” and thus does not have to be superseded. The Court also ruled that, because of the trial court’s imposition of a constructive trust, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in requiring the defendants to produce ongoing post-judgment discovery about the operation of the oil-and-gas properties at issue.No. 14-0095, Ventling v. Johnson — This case involves determining the accrual date for post-judgment interest when there are serial trial court judgments resulting from serial appeals. The Court held that the prevailing party was entitled to post-judgment interest from the date of the trial court judgment that was reversed and remanded for entry of the judgment that the trial court should have entered. The Court applied the rule that post-judgment interest runs from the judgment date on which the trial court had a sufficient record to render an accurate judgment. The Court also ruled that the prevailing party was entitled to conditional appellate attorney’s fees for pursuing her appeal (as opposed to the usual situation involving appellate fees for defending an appeal). Finally, the Court held that post-judgment interest on appellate attorney’s fees begins to run on the date of the appropriate appellate court’s judgment. No. 14-0214, Andrews County v. Sierra Club — Under the anti-SLAPP statute, the plaintiff can defeat the defendant’s dismissal motion by establishing by “clear and specific evidence” a prima facie case for each essential element of the claim in question. In the recent case In re Lipsky, the Court explained that “clear and specific evidence” does not impose a heightened evidentiary burden or preclude the use of circumstantial evidence. The Court remanded this case for reconsideration in light of the Lipsky standard.