Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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Respondent, who owned a ranch, sued Petitioner, which produced natural gas on the ranch, for underpayment of royalties and underproduction of its lease. The parties resolved their dispute with two agreements that contained an arbitration provision. Respondent later sued Petitioner for environmental contamination and improper disposal of hazardous materials on the ranch. Before arbitration commenced, Respondent asked the Railroad Commission (RRC) to investigate contamination of the ranch by Petitioner. Meanwhile, an arbitration panel awarded Respondent $15 million for actual damages and $500,000 for exemplary damages. At issue on appeal was whether the RRC had exclusive or primary jurisdiction over Respondent’s claims, precluding the arbitration, and whether the arbitration award should be vacated for the evident partiality of a neutral arbitrator or because the arbitrators exceeded their powers. The Supreme Court answered in the negative, holding (1) because Respondent’s claims were inherently judicial, the doctrine of primary jurisdiction did not apply, and vacatur was not warranted for failure to abate the arbitration hearing; and (2) the arbitrators did not exceed their authority. View "Forest Oil Corp. v. El Rucio Land & Cattle Co." on Justia Law

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RSL Funding, LLC had arbitration agreements with three individuals (collectively, Individuals) who owned annuity contracts they agreed to sell to RSL or its designee. Neither RSL nor the Individuals had arbitration agreements with the companies that wrote the annuity contracts (collectively, MetLife). After MetLife refused to honor contracts by which the Individuals sold their annuities, RSL sued MetLife and the Individuals in the County Court at Law (CCL) for a declaratory judgment. A district court suit was also initiated involving the same parties and subject matter. The Individuals initially joined forces with RSL but disputes subsequently arose. RSL initiated arbitration with the Individuals and moved to stay the CCL suit pending completion of arbitration. The CCL denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that RSL waived its right to arbitrate through its litigation conduct in the trial courts. The First Circuit affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by determining that RSL waived its right to arbitrate by litigation conduct; but (2) RSL did not challenge a separate ground on which the trial court court have denied RSL’s motion to stay the litigation - that RSL failed to join its assignees in the arbitration. View "RSL Funding, LLC v. Pippins" on Justia Law

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The parties were litigating a dispute involving an estate and family trusts when a family corporation filed for bankruptcy. The parties signed an agreement with a provision stating that they would attempt to settle any disputes by mediation and, if unsuccessful, by binding arbitration. The bankruptcy court’s order approving the settlement contained a permanent injunction prohibiting the parties from suing each other “on subjects pertaining to the subject matter of this litigation” without first obtaining its permission to do so. Later, that court denied Leonard permission to file suit and ordered the parties to comply with the agreement. The parties signed an arbitration agreement and “agreed to a resolution through arbitration pursuant to the provisions of the Texas General Arbitration Act.” Leonard subsequently filed a Complaint in Arbitration, alleging fraudulent conveyance and breach of fiduciary duties. After a hearing, the arbitrator dismissed most of the claims, stating that his ruling was based both on the statute of limitations and lack of standing Other parties sought to confirm the arbitration award; Leonard moved to vacate, alleging the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law. Manifest disregard is not a ground for vacatur under the Act. The court of appeals held, and the Texas Supreme Court affirmed, that the TAA’s enumerated vacatur grounds (TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE 171.087) are exclusive. View "Hoskins v. Hoskins" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sued Respondent, her employer, to recover damages for an injury she received during the course of her employment. Respondent moved to compel arbitration based on its employee handbook. Petitioner opposed arbitration, arguing that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and illusory. The trial court denied the motion, basing its ruling on only some of Petitioner’s unconscionability arguments and without discussing her remaining arguments. Respondent filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals reversed, thus rejecting the trial court’s express grounds in its ruling. Petitioner petitioned for review, arguing that she raised other grounds to deny arbitration that the court of appeals did not address. The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition and reversed, holding that the could of appeals could not order arbitration without addressing all of Petitioner’s arguments or remanding the case to the trial court to address them. View "Cardwell v. Whataburger Restaurants LLC" on Justia Law