Finality Bites

In re Woods Capital Enterprises, LLC
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-21-00188-CV (November 8, 2021)
Justices Molberg, Reichek, and Smith (Opinion, linked here)
Beware Mother Hubbard, the source of unintended consequences—in this case, a loss of jurisdiction.
Woods Capital sued DXC Technology in Collin County, alleging DXC had breached a contract to sell it a parcel of real property. Woods Capital also filed a notice of lis pendens on that property. DXC moved to dismiss Woods Capital’s claims under the TCPA and to expunge the lis pendens. The trial court granted the motion to expunge and set a separate hearing on DXC’s TCPA motion and its request for fees relating to expunction of the lis pendens. During that hearing, counsel for DXC “asked the trial court to ‘table the motion for attorneys’ fees [on lis pendens] at this time because it may be double work that’s unnecessary based on how the Court handles the TCPA motion.’” The trial court granted DXC’s TCPA motion and awarded it fees under the TCPA. It did not expressly rule on the “tabled” lis pendens fee application. Thereafter, the court entered final judgment that included familiar Mother Hubbard language: “all other relief heretofore requested by any party, but not expressly granted by an Order of the Court, is DENIED. This Order finally disposes of all remaining claims and parties, and is appealable.”

The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s TCPA ruling, including the award of fees under that statute, and remanded. Woods Capital promptly nonsuited its claims and re-filed in Dallas County. DXC then attempted to assert a counterclaim for its lis pendens fees in the original Collin County case. Woods moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, but the trial court denied that motion. Woods Capital sought mandamus relief, which the Dallas Court of Appeals granted.

DXC argued that Woods Capital’s nonsuit had no effect on its lis pendens fees claim. But the Court of Appeals concluded that claim had been dismissed by the recitation in the final judgment that “all other relief heretofore requested by any party, but not expressly granted by an Order of the Court, is DENIED,” and was therefore no longer pending after the appeal. “Had DXC believed the trial court erred by denying its lis pendens fee application,” the appeals court said, “it needed to file a cross appeal in the TCPA case.” It did not. So, when the appeals court remanded, the only claims left in the trial court were those asserted by Woods Capital. And when Woods nonsuited, that divested the trial court of jurisdiction.

The moral: Be careful with Mother Hubbard. She may not behave as you expect.
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