IOLAP, Inc. v. On Deck Management
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-17-00856-CV (February 22, 2018)
Justices Wright (opinion available here), Evans, and Brown
After two years of litigation and a trial in 2017, the Dallas Court of Appeals held the trial court did not have jurisdiction to reinstate a case back in 2015, and the trial court’s judgment was, therefore, void. In February 2015, the trial court dismissed the case for want of prosecution. Its plenary power was to expire 30 days later. IOLAP filed a Motion to Reinstate the Case within that 30-day period, which would have extended the trial court’s plenary power—had the motion been verified. But it wasn’t. The trial court granted the Motion to Reinstate in April 2015, tried the case, and entered a judgement in April 2017. IOLAP appealed.

The Dallas Court of Appeals held that, although a verified motion to reinstate a case filed within 30 days of a dismissal for want of prosecution extends the trial court’s plenary power in the same manner as a motion for new trial, an unverified motion to reinstate is a nullity and does not extend the trial court’s plenary jurisdiction. So everything that happened in the case after the trial court lost plenary power in March 2015 was a nullity. The appellate court was not moved by the fact that all parties participated in the case, without objection, after it was purportedly reinstated. Subject matter jurisdiction exists by operation of law and cannot be conferred by consent or waiver.