Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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This case case arising out of the breakup of a limited partnership created to produce and market a new cement product the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals largely affirming the judgment of the trial court in favor of the limited partnership and a technology-supplying partner, holding that Plaintiffs failed to present legally sufficient evidence of damages and that the technology-supplying partner was not entitled to a permanent injunction for misappropriation of trade secrets. The partnership, its general partner, and the limited partner that supplied the cement-making technology sued the limited partners responsible for funding, the general manager of the partnership, and the companies that foreclosed on and purchased the partnership's assets. Defendants asserted counterclaims. The court of appeals largely affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the damage awards were not supported by legally sufficient evidence; (2) the technology-supplying partner was not entitled to a permanent injunction for misappropriation of trade secrets; and (3) the company that purchased the partnership's assets and promissory note did not prove it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its counterclaim for the partnership's failure to pay a deficiency balance on the note. View "Pike v. Texas EMC Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the amount of franchise tax owed by a taxpayer the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing in part the trial court's judgment for the taxpayer, holding that, with respect to the taxpayer's inclusion of certain costs in its "cost of goods sold" (COGS) subtraction, the calculation method accepted by the trial court was improper, and the taxpayer was not entitled to include the costs in calculating its COGS subtraction. The Comptroller concluded that Gulf Copper and Manufacturing Corporation paid an insufficient amount of franchise taxes for the 2009 year. At issue was whether Gulf Copper could exclude certain payments from its revenue under Texas Tax Code 171.1011(g)(3) and include certain costs in its COGS subtraction under Texas Tax Code 171.1012. Gulf Copper paid additional taxes and sued to recover the disputed amount. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Gulf Copper. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Comptroller incorrectly disallowed the revenue exclusion; (2) with regard to the COGS subtraction, the calculation method accepted by the trial court was improper; and (3) the taxpayer was not entitled to include costs under subsection 171.1012(i) in calculating its COGS subtraction. View "Hegar v. Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court concluding that Tex. Tax Code 171.1012 permitted a movie theater to subtract exhibition costs as cost of goods sold, holding that film exhibitions are not tangible personal property that is sold, and therefore, the theater was not entitled to include exhibition-related costs in its cost of goods sold. The Comptroller disallowed the movie theater's subtraction of exhibition costs in calculating its franchise tax liability for 2008 and 2009. The theater paid the additional franchise taxes requested by the Comptroller and sued to recover the disputed amount, arguing that its exhibition costs were property subtracted as cost of goods sold (COGS). The trial court concluded that the theater's film exhibitions were tangible personal property and thus goods for sale in the ordinary course of the theater's business under section 171.1012. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 171.1012 did not permit the movie theater to subtract is exhibition costs as COGS because no tangible personal property was transferred through the film exhibitions. View "Hegar v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the Texas Comptroller's audit of Sunstate Equipment, a heavy construction equipment renal company, on the grounds that Sunstate was not entitled to subtract certain delivery and pick-up costs as cost of goods sold (COGS) under Tex. Tax Code 171.1012, holding that Sunstate was not entitled to the subtraction it claimed under either section 171.1012(k-1) nor section 171.1012(i). After the Comptroller assessed deficiencies, penalties and interest totaling $140,495 Sunstate brought suit for a refund. The district court ordered a full refund of the amount paid, including interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Sunstate was not entitled to subtract costs under section 171.1012(k-1) and that section 171.1012(i) did not independently authorize the cost subtractions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither statutory provision authorized Sunstate to subtract its delivery and pick-up costs as COGS. View "Sunstate Equipment Co. v. Hegar" on Justia Law

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In this venue dispute, the Supreme Court denied a petition for mandamus relief, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in transferring the case to the parties' agreed venue. This case stemmed from a lawsuit alleging wrongful disposition of a limited partnership's assets. A group of the limited partners (collectively, Fox River) sued William Carlson, who owned and controlled the partnership's general partner, claiming that Carlson fraudulently misappropriated groundwater leases, breached the limited partnership agreement, and violated fiduciary duties. Fox River filed the lawsuit in Washington County where Carlson was domiciled. Carlson moved to transfer venue to Harris County, citing a venue-selection clause in the limited partnership agreement. The trial court granted the motion, enforcing the parties' venue agreement in accordance with Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 15.020. Fox River sought mandamus relief, arguing that Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 65.023(a) mandates venue in a defendant's county of domicile for cases primarily seeking injunctive relief. The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that section 15.020 requires enforcement of the parties' venue-selection agreement not because it is a "super mandatory" venue provision that supersedes section 65.023(a) but because section 65.023(a) does not apply in suits like this where injunctive relief is not the primary and principal relief requested. View "In re Fox River Real Estate Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court concluding that Petitioners (together, ETP) and Respondents (together, Enterprise) had created a partnership to market and pursue a pipeline project to transport crude oil from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, holding that Texas law permits parties to conclusively agree that, as between themselves, no partnership will exist unless certain conditions are satisfied. In three written agreements, the parties set forth their intent that neither party be bound to proceed with the project at issue until each company's board of directors had approved the execution of a formal contract and definitive agreements memorializing the terms and conditions of the transactions were executed and delivered. ETP later sued arguing the parties had formed a partnership to market and pursue a pipeline and that Enterprise breached its statutory duty of loyalty. The trial court entered judgment for ETP. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) parties can conclusively negate the formation of a partnership through contractual conditions precedent; and (2) the parties did so as a matter of law in this case, and there was no evidence that Enterprise waived the conditions. View "Energy Transfer Partners, LP v. Enterprise Products Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between the Hickman Group and the Murrin Group asserting the right to control the management of Billy Bob's the Supreme Court denied the Murrin Group's petition for writ of mandamus challenging the trial court's denial of its motion to disqualify Kelly Hart & Hallman (KHH) as counsel for Billy Bob's Texas Investments (BBT) and as counsel for the Hickman Group, holding that the Murrin Group did not establish a clear abuse of discretion as to the motion to disqualify. The Murrin Group filed the underlying lawsuit against the Hickman Group asserting claims individually by the members of the Murrin Group and claims asserted derivatively on behalf of BBT. KHH was hired to represent both the Hickman Group and BBT in the litigation. The Murrin Group moved to disqualify KHH as counsel for both BBT and the Hickman Group and filed a Rule 12 motion requiring KHH to show its authority to represent BBT. The trial court denied both motions. The Murrin Group sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) the trial court properly denied the motion to disqualify; and (2) the Murrin Group did not establish the lack of an adequate remedy at law as to the Rule 12 motion. View "In re Murrin Brothers 1885, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted two questions of Texas law certified to it from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concerning the damages and attorney's fees available under the Texas Sales Representative Act, chapter 54 of the Business and Commerce Code, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 54.001-.006. The Court answered (1) the time for determining the existence and amount of "unpaid commission due" under section 54.001(1) is the time of the jury or trial court determines the liability the defendant, whether at trial or through another dispositive trial-court process such as summary judgment; and (2) a plaintiff may recover attorney's fees and costs under section 54.004(2) even if the plaintiff does not receive treble damages if the fact-finder determines that the fees and costs were reasonably incurred under the circumstances. View "JCB, Inc. v. Horsburgh & Scott Co." on Justia Law

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In this defamation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court that a Newspaper was not entitled to summary judgment, holding that fact issues existed that precluded summary judgment. Specifically, the Court held (1) the court of appeals did not err in finding a fact issue on whether the statements at issue were substantially true; and (2) the court of appeals properly found that the Newspaper did not prove it was entitled to summary judgment on the ground that the editorial at issue in this case was protected opinion. View "Scripps NP Operating, LLC v. Carter" on Justia Law

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In this defamation action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment that the complaint be dismissed under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, holding that Respondents failed to carry their burden to survive dismissal under the Act. Respondents sued The Dallas Morning News and Kevin Krause, a writer, arguing that Petitioners defamed them and their compounding-pharmacy business venture. The News moved to dismiss the claims under the Act. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Respondents satisfied their burden under the Act to defeat the News's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding holding that that Respondents did not meet their burden under the Act to show a prima facie case for defamation, and therefore, the News was entitled to dismissal. View "Dallas Morning News, Inc. v. Hall" on Justia Law