Texas Supreme Court - Summaries of Cases from 9/4/15 Orders

Posted by Rich PhillipsThere are no opinions and no grants in the Texas Supreme Court’s order list for September 11, 2015.As promised, here are the summaries of the 14 cases that the Supreme Court of Texas set for argument in its September 4, 2015 orders:No. 13-0977, Fischer v. CTMI, L.L.C. – The primary issue is whether a provision in an asset purchase agreement is an unenforceable agreement to agree. Petitioner contends that the provision cannot be carved out of the otherwise enforceable agreement and that partial performance of the agreement precludes a finding that the provision is unenforceable. No. 13-0986, Southwestern Energy Production Co. v. Berry-Helfand – In this oil and gas case, the plaintiff asserts that the defendants conspired to steal her trade secrets. The primary issues on appeal are (1) whether the evidence supports the award of actual damages; (2) whether the plaintiff’s claim is barred by the statute of limitations; (3) whether the court of appeals correctly reversed the breach-of-contract damages; and (4) whether disgorgement is a proper remedy for misappropriation of trade secrets.No. 14-0086, Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company v. White – This is a landlord/tenant dispute arising from damages to the apartment complex allegedly caused by a clothes dryer owned by the tenant. The primary issue is whether the agreement between the tenant and the landlord that makes the tenant responsible for damage caused by a personal appliance is void under the Texas Property Code or Texas public policy. The respondent also asserts other grounds for finding the agreement unenforceable (such as lack of consideration, ambiguity, unconscionability, etc.).No. 14-0459, Houston Belt & Terminal Ry. Co. v. City of Houston – This case arises from a dispute about the City’s drainage utility ordinance. The issue is whether the petitioners have pleaded a viable ultra-vires claim such that the claims are not subject to governmental immunity. In the interest of full disclosure, I represent the petitioners in this case.No. 14-0546, Apache Deepwater, LLC v. McDaniel Partners, Ltd. – This case arises from a dispute about production payments allegedly owed under an assignment of multiple oil and gas leases. The issue is what effect the expiration of some of the assigned leases has on the production payment. The petitioner asserts that the portion of the production payment attributable to the expired leases is no longer payable. The respondent argues that the payment is a fixed amount without a proportionate reduction clause (or other similar provision) and is therefore payable in full even if some leases have expired.No. 14-0572, Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC v. City of Lubbock – In this dispute arising from dispute over groundwater, the issue is the accommodation doctrine (which requires the owner of the mineral estate to accommodate existing surface uses when possible) applies to a severed groundwater estate.No. 14-0591, Staley Family Partnership, Ltd. v. Stiles – Petitioner filed suit seeking a declaration that it has an implied right-of-way easement by necessity over the respondents’ property. The dispute centers on what the petitioner must prove to establish the implied easement by necessity. The parties dispute whether the petitioner must show that the easement would give access to a roadway.No. 14-0638, Ochsner v. Ochsner – In this child-support dispute, the issue is whether the child-support obligor could be found in arrears on child support when he made direct payments for child care and private school instead of making child-support payments through the county.No. 14-0650, Centerpoint Builders GP, LLC v. Trussway, Ltd. – This is an indemnity dispute arising from a suit for personal injuries sustained in an accident at a construction site. The worker was injured when he stepped on a roof truss, which broke, causing the worker to fall 8-10 feet. The primary issue is whether the general contractor who purchased the roof truss and gave it to a subcontractor for installation is a “seller” under Chapter 82 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code.No. 14-0732, McIntyre v. El Paso Independent School District – This case arises from a dispute between a family that home schools its children and the El Paso Independent School District. The primary issues are (1) whether the family was required to exhaust administrative remedies before suing the district and (2) whether the court of appeals properly dismissed the family’s other claims.No. 14-0745, Sampson v. University of Texas – Austin – The issue in this case is whether a portable extension cord strung across a sidewalk is a “premises defect” or a negligent use of tangible property.No. 14-0797, In re Phillips – This mandamus proceeding arises from a dispute about compensation for wrongful imprisonment. The issue is the proper amount of child-support arrearage to which the petitioner is entitled under the statute requiring compensation for wrongful imprisonment.No. 14-0901, Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Nami – In this Federal Employers’ Liability Act suit, the issue is whether Union Pacific can be liable for failure to provide a safe workplace when one of its employees allegedly contracted West Nile virus from mosquitoes while working. No. 14-0903, Clint Independent School District v. Marquez – Parents of schoolchildren in the Clint Independent School District sued claiming that the district’s intra-district funding violates the Texas Constitution. The issue is whether the parents had to exhaust their administrative remedies before suing the district. The trial court dismissed the claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the parents did not need to exhaust administrative remedies because they are complaining solely of the violations of their children’s state constitutional rights.