This Week at the Texas Supreme Court

The Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday, November 5 and Thursday, November 6, in the following cases:Wednesday, November 5:No. 12-0946, In re Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC – Relator Bridgestone seeks a writ of mandamus compelling dismissal of the underlying case for forum non conveniens. The case involves an accident in Mexico that involved only Mexican citizens. The minor plaintiffs brought suit in the U.S. through their uncle, who lives in the U.S. and is designated as their next friend, even though their grandparents in Mexico are their legal guardians. You can view the argument recording here.No. 13-0439, Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital – The plaintiff in this case claims that she slipped and fell on a wet floor in the hospital lobby while there as a visitor, not a patient. The trial court found that her claim was a healthcare liability claim and dismissed it for failure to file the required expert report. The court of appeals affirmed, based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas West Oaks Hospital, LP v. Williams, 371 S.W.3d 171, 179–80 (Tex. 2012). Click here for the recording of the argument.No. 13-0497, G.T. Leach Builders LLC v. Sapphire V.P., L.P. – This case arises from a motion to compel arbitration. A hurricane damaged a condo project that was under construction. The project’s owner brought two lawsuits, one against defendants who allegedly failed to procure adequate insurance and the other against design professionals for negligent design. Much later, the general contractor was added to both lawsuits. The general contractor sought to compel arbitration, which was denied. Among the issues raised in the Supreme Court are: (1) applicability of a clause stating that arbitration cannot be initiated after the statute of limitations has expired; (2) whether the general contractor’s conduct waived the arbitration clause; and (3) whether other parties can piggyback onto the arbitration clause. Click here for the argument video.Thursday, November 6:No. 13-0515, Klumb v. Houston Municipal Employees Pension System – The issue is whether the board of the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System acted ultra vires such that governmental immunity does not bar suit by the City and certain employees challenging the board’s actions concerning former City employees who were transferred to a non-profit corporation. Click here for the argument video.No. 13-0552, Shell Oil Co. v. Writt – This case addresses the intersection of defamation law and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The U.S. Department of Justice made an inquiry of Shell  about possible bribery related to a Shell project in Nigeria. Shell then performed an internal investigation, and later gave the DOJ a copy of Shell’s internal report, in which Shell accused Robert Writt (who was a Shell employee) of unethical behavior. Writt sued Shell for defamation. The issues on appeal are (1) whether the statements in Shell’s internal report are protected by an absolute privilege and (2) whether the DOJ’s FCPA investigation was a quasi-judicial proceeding. Click here for the argument video.This morning, the Court issued its weekly orders. The Court did not issue any opinions or grant any petitions. For the true appellate geeks, there is an interesting order denying a motion to modify the judgment in No. 11-0447, Ritchie v. Rupe. Petitioners asked the Court to modify the judgment to release the surety on their supersedeas bond before the issuance of the mandate (which won’t issue until after the court of appeals addresses the issues tha the Court remanded). Petitioners argued that there is no subsisting money judgment, and that even if the court of appeals finds in favor of the respondent on remand, the court of appeals would have to remand to the trial court for a determination of damages and issuance of a new money judgment. The Respondent opposed the motion, arguing that the conditions on the bond cannot be discharged until an appellate mandate has issued. The Court denied the motion without comment.See the complete order list here.- Rich Phillips, Thompson & Knight