Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Texas Supreme Court Orders & Opinions 11/30/07

The Texas Supreme Court handed down six decisions with this week’s orders.

In Mid-Century Insurance Co. v. Ademaj (No. 05-0016), a declaratory judgment action, the Court held that insurers may lawfully collect Texas Automobile Theft Prevention Authority fees from auto insurance policyholders without including such fees in rate filings required under Article 5.101 of the Insurance Code.  Because the trial court and court of appeals concluded otherwise, the supreme court reversed and rendered judgment that plaintiff take nothing.  Justice O’Neill (joined by Justice Medina) issued a concurring opinion.

In Houston Municipal Employees Pension System v. Ferrell (No. 05-0587), the Court held that 29 members of the Pension System could not bring a declaratory judgment action to adjudicate their rights under the statute that created the System.  Because the statute expressly provides that the administrative agency’s interpretation is “final and binding on any interested party,” the Court held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the case, reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, and dismissed for want of jurisdiction.  Justice Brister (joined by Justice O’Neill) concurred.

In Montgomery County, Texas v. Park (No. 05-1023), the Court defined an “adverse” personnel action under the Texas Whistleblower Act (which provides no definition) as one that “would be likely to dissuade a reasonable, similarly situated worker from making a report under the Act.”  Concluding thatplaintiff failed to meet that definition, the Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and rendered judgment for the County.

In Ogletree v. Matthews (No. 06-0502), the Court determined that a defendant in a health-care liability action has no right to an immediate interlocutory appeal when the trial court denies a motion to dismiss and grants the claimant a 30-day extension of time to cure defects in otherwise timely served expert reports.  Because the court of appeals reached the same conclusion, the supreme court affirmed the lower court’s judgment.  Justice Willett delivered a concurring opinion.

In Best Buy Co. v. Barrera (No. 07-0028) (per curiam), a class action in which plaintiffs sought return of restocking fees, the Court followed its recent decision in Stonebridge Life Insurance Co. v. Pitts andconcluded that individual issues will predominate over common issues of proof.  Holding that plaintiffs thus failed to satisfy TRCP 42(b)(3)’s predominance requirement, the Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment affirming the class-certification order and remanded the case to the trial court.

In In re McKee (No. 06-0055) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam), the Court denied a mandamus petition seeking to invalidate an administrative judge’s assignment of one trial judge to hear a recusal motion involving another trial judge when the administrative judge had previously recused himself from the case.  Noting that it had previously declined mandamus relief from the denial of a recusal motion, the Court applied the updated Prudential standard and concluded that there would be no significant benefit to granting relief in this case.

D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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