Our last four posts on the highest civil court in the Lone Star State went from Bloody Day at Texas Supreme Court (Mar. 28, 2014) to Do Plaintiffs Stand a Chance in the Supreme Court of Texas? (Apr. 25) to Do Plaintiffs Stand a Chance in the Supreme Court of Texas -- Part 2 (May 30) to Do Plaintiffs Stand a Chance in the Texas Supreme Court -- Part 3 (June 23).
The streak continues. In the three Fridays that followed our June 23 post -- the Court usually issues opinions at the end of each business week -- the Court has kept up its, er, consistency.
Behold, the Court:
- Reinstated a grant of no-evidence summary judgment in favor of a defendant land owner whose employee chased a trespassing vehicle across the land at high speed, leading to a rollover and three fatalities. The Court reasoned that chasing the vehicle across unlit roads "d[id] not create [a] likelihood of serious injury to the defendants" absent evidence of "aggressive moves" on the part of the employee or the speed at which he was travelling. Boerjan v. Rodriguez, No. 12-0838 (Tex. June 27, 2014).
Ruled that a royalty owner was not entitled to a $10 million jury award for underpayment of royalties, finding that the costs of separating CO2 from casinghead gas may be assessed against the royalty interest as a postproduction expense, despite the parties previously classifying all oil separation activity as a production expense. French v. Occidental Permian Ltd., No. 12-1002 (Tex. June 27, 2014).
- Reversed a trial court order requiring a majority shareholder found to have engaged in oppressive conduct to buy-out the minority shareholder's interest for fair value. The Court ruled that a buy-out order is not an authorized remedy for oppressive conduct under the TBOC. Cardiac Perfusion Services, Inc. v. Hughes, No. 13-0014 (Tex. June 27, 2014).
- Ruled that the imposition of a spoliation instruction against a defendant store owner who allowed video surveillance footage to be automatically erased was an abuse of discretion because the degree of resulting prejudice was not in accordance with the spoliating party's culpability. The Court reversed judgment for plaintiff and remanded for new trial. Brookshire Brothers, LTD v. Alridge, No. 10-0846 (Tex. July 3, 2014).
- Denied a plaintiff's takings claim after the state claimed and fought for ownership of part of Plaintiff's land for two decades, reducing the value of the land and preventing her from finding a willing buyer. Although the court found that "the State's conduct is troubling," it held that no taking occurs until the assertion of ownership is coupled with taking physical possession. Porretto v. Texas General Land Office, No. 12-0483 (Tex. July 3, 2014).
- Dismissed the claims of an asbestos plaintiff's estate because the claims failed to comply with the requirements of new legislation enacted post-injury that changed the procedural requirements for statutory wrongful death causes of action. To do so, the Court overruled a court of appeals ruling that the new requirements were unconstitutionally retroactive as applied to Plaintiff's claims.Union Carbide Corp. v. Synatzske, No. 12-0617 (July 3, 2014).
- Overturned the denial of immunity to a government-entity defendant, dismissing a commercial tenant's breach of contract claim. Although entering into a contract for goods or services waives governmental immunity from claims by the contracting party, the Court reasoned that the lease was not such a contract despite a use restriction requiring plaintiff to operate a marina. Lubbock County Water Control v. Church & Akin, LLC, No. 12-1039 (Tex. July 3, 2014).
- Affirmed dismissal of an asbestos plaintiff's claim against a manufacturer, finding that evidence of considerable exposure to defendant's products was, given evidence of additional exposure to other sources of asbestos, insufficient to establish causation in the absence of evidence quantifying the aggregate dose of asbestos attributable to defendant. Bostic v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., No. 10-0775 (Tex. July 11, 2014).
- Vacated a $1.2 million jury verdict against a fuel system manufacturer for installing a faulty flex connector, resulting in massive fuel loss. The court ruled that a spoliation instruction issued against the defendant after it lost the flex connector in question was, absent evidence of intentional concealment, an abuse of discretion. Petroleum Solutions, Inc. v. Head, No. 11-0425 (Tex. July 11, 2014).
The slaughter has become extreme.
If you have a choice about where to file a case, you might give serious thought to going somewhere other than the state courts of Texas.