Texas Supreme Court Orders and Opinions (10/28/16)

Posted by Rich PhillipsIn its weekly order list on Friday, October 28, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court issued two per curiam opinions. The Court did not grant any new petitions for review or set any mandamus petitions for argument.The two per curiam opinions are:No. 15-0452, In re National Lloyd’s Insurance Company — This mandamus petition challenges a trial court order compelling production of documents and sanctioning the non-responding party. The underlying case involves a dispute about insurance payments for damage suffered during a widespread hailstorm. The underlying dispute has generated a number of mandamus petitions in the Supreme Court on various issues. The issue in this petition is whether an insurer can be compelled to produce documents that relate to insurance claims of parties other than the parties to the instant action. The Supreme Court rejected an argument by the real party in interest that the insurance company waived its objections, then relied on its 2014 opinion in In re National Lloyd’s Insurance Company to hold that the category of requested documents, which included information about nonparties, was overbroad. The Court conditionally granted mandamus as to that category of documents, and directed the trial court to reconsider the amount of sanctions. No. 14-0552, North Shore Energy v. Harkins — This appeal arises from a suit to quiet title and involves construction of the description of land in an option contract. The parties dispute whether the contract includes or excludes a 400-acre portion of the overall 1,600-acre tract covered by the contract. The contract gave North Shore the option to select multiple parcels of land from the described tract to lease minerals from the Harkins family. The description of the property subject to the option stated that it was 1,210.8224 acres out of a larger 1,600-acre tract and referenced a separate memorandum of lease. The separate memorandum of lease identified the 1,210.8224 acres as all of the larger 1,600 acre tract except for a 400-acre tract covered by a different identified lease. That lease, however, had expired by the time the parties executed the Option Agreement. North Shore argued that the option contract was a selection contract that allowed it to select which approximately 1,200 acres out of the larger 1,600 acre tract were covered by the option to lease. The trial court found that the contract unambiguously included the 400 acres. The court of appeals found that the contract was ambiguous and reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court held that the contract is unambiguous, because there is only one reasonable interpretation, but that the only reasonable interpretation is that the 400-acre tract is not included in the contract. Accordingly, it held that the Court of Appeals was right to reverse the grant of summary judgment in favor of North Shore, but for the wrong reasons. The Court will hear oral argument next week on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. (Unlike the US Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court will not hear arguments on Election Day.)