On Friday, March 28, 2014, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in 5 argued cases and a per curiam opinion in an un-argued case. The Court did not grant any petitions for review. The order list also includes a rare dissent from a denial of a petition for review and an even rarer concurrence in that same denial. Access the full order list here.
The Court issued opinions in the following cases:
No. 11-0161, Long v. Castle Texas Production, LP - The Court addressed the accrual date for postjudgment interest when an appellate court has remanded the case for further proceedings that require new evidence. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Guzman, the Court held that when a remand requires the record to be reopened, postjudgment interest accrues from the date of the new judgment, rather than the date of the original, erroneous judgment. Click here for the opinion.
No. 11-0709, Kia Motors Corp. v. Ruiz - In this automobile crashworthiness case, the Court (in a unanimous opinion by Justice Lehrmann) addressed three primary issues. First, the Court concluded that Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 82.008 did not apply to bar the plaintiffs' claims. Section 82.008 provides the manufacturer with a defense in design-defect cases when the product complies with a mandatory federal safety standard. The Court held (1) that the car at issue complied with a mandatory federal safety standard and (2) that the standard was applicable to the product at the time of manufacture. But the Court held that the standard at issue did not govern the product risk that allegedly caused the harm. Second, the Court held that there was legally sufficient evidence of a design defect in the airbag circuitry. Third, the Court found that the trial court erred in admitting a spreadsheet of warranty claims into evidence because the claims were not sufficiently similar to the incident at issue. The Court also found that this erroneous admission of evidence was harmful. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial. The opinion is here. (In the interest of full disclosure, Scott and I were counsel for Kia in this case.)
No. 11-0773, Bioderm Skin Care LLC v. Sok - This is another in a long line of cases addressing the scope of the Texas Medical Liability Act. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Guzman, the Court held that the TMLA applies to a claim arising from allegedly improper laser hair removal. The Court applied its rebuttable presumption that "claims against physicians or health care providers based on facts implicating the defendant’s conduct during the patient’s care, treatment, or confinement are health care liability claims." The plaintiff failed to rebut the presumption because expert health care testimony will be required to prove or disprove the claim. Click here for the Court's opinion.
No. 12-0251, Crosstex Energy Services, LP v. Pro Plus, Inc. - This appeal involves the requirement for a certificate of merit in cases against certain licensed professionals. The requirement appears in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code chapter 150. In an unanimous opinion by Justice Green, the Court held that: (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider an interlocutory appeal of an order denying a motion to dismiss and granting the plaintiff an extension to file the certificate of merit; (2) the statutory provision allowing extension of the time to file the certificate of merit for "good cause" applies only when the case is filed within 10 days of the expiration of the limitations period; (3) a defendant may waive the requirement of a certificate of merit; and (4) the defendant's conduct did not waive the requirement in this case. Click here for the opinion.
No. 12-0360, Colorado v. Tyco Valves & Controls L.P. - Several former employees sued Tyco, alleging that they were entitled to severance pay under written and oral agreements. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Lehrmann, the Court concluded that these claims are preempted by ERISA. The opinion is here.
No. 12-1000, In re Ford Motor Co. - This case presents a discovery dispute in which the plaintiff sought evidence to support its claim that the defendants' experts are biased. During the depositions of the experts, plaintiffs' counsel asked about how often the experts testified in favor of defendants in design-defect cases. The plaintiffs then sought to compel the deposition of a corporate representative of each of the experts' employers. In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that the requested discovery exceeded the scope permitted by the rules and conditionally granted the writ of mandamus. Click here for the opinion.
The Court denied the petition for review in No. 13-0006, El-Ali v. State, but the denial produced two opinions: a dissent and a concurrence. The case addresses the state's asset-forfeiture regime. Justice Willett (joined by Justices Lehrmann and Devine) dissented from the denial. The dissenters are concerned that the asset-forfeiture regime presents constitutional issues that should be addressed: "the civil-forfeiture realities of 2014—the prevalence, procedures, and profitability—compel us to reexamine the constitutional protections due innocent property owners." Justice Boyd (joined by Justice Guzman) filed a concurrence in the denial.
- Rich Phillips, Thompson & Knight