Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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The beneficiary of an inter vivos trust sued the trustee for misappropriation of trust assets and failing to provide an accounting to the trust's beneficiaries. The trustee moved to compel arbitration, relying an arbitration provision contained in the trust. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the provision could not be enforced under the Texas Arbitration Act (TAA) because there was no agreement to arbitrate trust disputes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration provision contained in the trust was enforceable against the beneficiary, as (1) the settlor's intent here was to arbitrate any disputes over the trust; and (2) the beneficiary's acceptance of the benefits of the trust and suit to enforce its terms constituted the assent required to form an enforceable agreement to arbitrate under the TAA. Remanded. View "Rachal v. Reitz" on Justia Law

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Richmont Holdings purchased the assets of Superior Recharge Systems. The terms of the sales were set out in a purchase agreement that included a provision for binding arbitration of any dispute relating to the agreement. In connection with the sale, Richmont Holdings agreed to hire John Blake for a period of two years. The employment agreement did not include an arbitration provision. Six months later, Blake's employment was terminated. Blake sued Richmont. Richmont answered and later moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Richmont waived its arbitration rights because it had substantially invoked the judicial process. The court of appeals affirmed but on different grounds, holding that the parties did not have a valid agreement to arbitrate because the dispute arose exclusively out of the employment agreement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals' failure to recognize the arbitration agreement at issue in this case was contrary to the Court's precedent, which mandates enforcement of such an agreement absent proof of a defense. Remanded to consider the waiver of defense raised below. View "Richmont Holdings, Inc v. Superior Recharge Sys., LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case was whether an appellate court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a trial court order confirming an arbitration award in part and vacating the award in part based on the existence of unresolved questions of law or fact necessary to a ruling, yet the trial court did not expressly direct a rehearing. The court of appeals held that it did not have jurisdiction over the appeal, holding (1) the judgment was not final because it did not contain finality language or otherwise state that it was a final judgment and necessarily contemplated resolution of the remaining issues by way of a rehearing, and therefore, the appeal was interlocutory; and (2) no statute permitted an appeal in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed and, for different reasons, dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction, holding (1) the appeal was interlocutory; (2) the Texas Arbitration Act did not provide jurisdiction over the interlocutory appeal; and (3) there is no jurisdiction over arbitration awards that are incomplete unless, under certain circumstances, the parties file a writ of mandamus, which neither party here filed. View "Bison Bldg. Materials, Ltd. v. Aldridge" on Justia Law

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This case arose from respondent's injury on the job and the arbitration agreement he signed as a condition of his employment. At issue was whether an appellate court had jurisdiction over an appeal from a trial court order confirming an arbitration award in part and vacating the award in part based on the existence of unresolved questions of law or fact necessary to a ruling, yet the trial court did not expressly direct a rehearing. Because the order left significant factual and legal issues open for further determination, it was interlocutory and not appealable unless authorized by statute. Accordingly, the court of appeals and the court did not have jurisdiction over the interlocutory appeal. View "Bison Building Materials, Ltd., v. Aldridge" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Norma Sandoval and her sister, Nora Martinez, jointly filed suit against SCI alleging fraud, deceptive trade practices, and other tort claims arising from their respective interment rights and services contracts for family burial plots at Mont Meta Memorial Park. Martinez's contract allowed the court to appoint an arbitrator, while Sandoval's contract required the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to appoint the arbitrator if the parties could not reach a mutual agreement. The trial judge severed the cases and then appointed an arbitrator for Martinez's case. Over the objection of SCI, the trial court also appointed the same arbitrator to arbitrate Sandoval's case. At issue on appeal was whether SCI allowed a lapse or mechanical breakdown in the contractual process for selection of an arbitrator, thereby validating the trial court's intervention to appoint the arbitrator. The court held that the trial court abused its discretion by appointing an arbitrator instead of following the agreed-upon method of selection outlined in the contract. As a matter of law, the two-month delay in the selection of an arbitrator in this case, by itself, did not establish a lapse or failure of the parties to avail themselves of the contractual selection method. Accordingly, without hearing oral argument, the court conditionally granted SCI's petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its prior order appointing David Calvillo as arbitrator. View "In re Service Corp. Int'l and SCI Texas Funeral Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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This mandamus proceeding arose from an arbitration agreement governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq. The parties entered into a contract for interment rights and services. The contract obligated the parties to arbitrate this dispute over the care and maintenance of the cemetery. The arbitration agreement provided that an arbitrator would either be selected by mutual agreement of the parties or appointed by the American Arbitration Association (AAA). The parties failed to agree to an arbitrator and the trial court appointed an arbitrator without allowing a reasonable opportunity to procure an appointment by AAA. The court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion and conditionally granted the petition for writ of mandamus. View "In re Service Corp. Int'l and SCI Texas Funeral Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned an arbitration provision that allowed each party to appoint one arbitrator to a panel, subject to certain requirements. At issue was whether Americo wavied its objection to the removal of the arbitrator it selected. The underlying dispute concerned the financing mechanism for Americo's purchase of several insurance companies from Robert Myer. Pursuant to the financing agreement, Americo and Myer submitted their dispute to arbitration under American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules. The arbitrators found in favor of Myer, and Americo filed a motion to vacate the award. The trial court granted the motion, holding that Americo was entitled to any arbitrator that met the requirements set forth in the financing agreement and that the arbitrator removed by the AAA met those requirements. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Americo had waived these arguments by not presenting them to the AAA. Because the record demonstrated otherwise, the court rejected the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the case to that court for further proceedings. View "Americo Life, Inc., et al. v. Myer, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners and respondent agreed to submit their claims to arbitration but could not agree on an arbitrator. Because of this disagreement, the trial judge intervened and appointed an arbitrator to preside over their dispute. At issue was whether the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 51.016 of an interlocutory appeal of an order appointing an arbitrator. Also at issue was whether, in the alternative, petitioners should be granted mandamus relief to prevent form from overriding substance. The court held that the court of appeals correctly determined that it was without jurisdiction to hear an interlocutory appeal pursuant to section 51.016. The court also instructed the court of appeals to consider this appeal as a petition for writ of mandamus because petitioners specifically requested mandamus relief in the court of appeals and preserved that issue in this court and because judicial efficiency militated against requesting petitioners to file a separate original proceeding.

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Respondent filed a sex discrimination suit against petitioner alleging violations of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, Tex. Lab. Code 21.001-.556, where petitioner terminated its employment of respondent citing as the basis for its decision a reduction in force due to worsening business conditions. The parties sought arbitration and petitioner appealed the arbitrator's reward. At issue was whether the Texas General Arbitration Act ("TAA"), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 171.001-.098, precluded an agreement for judicial review of an arbitration award for reversible error, and if not, whether the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. 1-16, preempted enforcement of such an agreement. The court held that the TAA presented no impediment to an agreement that limited the authority of an arbitrator in deciding a matter and thus allowed for judicial review of an arbitration award for reversible error. The court also held that the FAA did not preempt enforcement of an agreement to expanded judicial review of an arbitration award enforceable under the TAA. The court further held that, on remand, the court of appeals must determine whether the record was sufficient to review petitioner's complaints. Therefore, the judgment of the court of appeals must be reversed and the case remanded to that court for consideration of the merits of petitioner's challenges to the arbitration award.