Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-20-01020-CV (July 7, 2022)
Justices Partida-Kipness (Opinion, linked here), Reichek, and Goldstein
Mahesh Patel sued Mehulkumar Patel, Chirag Patel, and Jayson Patel for breach of fiduciary duty, theft, and other claims relating to Gonzalez Hotels, LLC, of which they were all co-owners. After a mediation, the parties entered into a Rule 11 agreement in which Mehulkumar, Chirag, and Jayson “consented to the entry of an agreed judgment making them liable for half of Mahesh’s past and future contributions to the company.” Mahesh promptly filed a motion to enforce that agreement. But Mehulkumar, Chirag, and Jayson withdrew their consent before the trial court could act on that motion. Mahesh then filed a motion for summary judgment, “the stated goal of [which] was to obtain an agreed judgment to enforce the terms of the agreement.” The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment for Mahesh, but the Dallas Court of Appeals reversed.
“Written settlement agreements may be enforced as contracts even if one party withdraws consent before judgment is entered on the agreement,” the Court acknowledged. But, as the Texas Supreme Court explained in Ford Motor Co. v. Castillo, 279 S.W.3d 656, 663 (Tex. 2009) and elsewhere, “[w]hen consent is withdrawn [before the trial court renders judgment], the agreed judgment that was part of the settlement may not be entered. The party seeking enforcement of the settlement agreement must pursue a separate claim for breach of contract, which is subject to the normal rules of pleading and proof.” Here, Mahesh had not asserted a claim for breach of the agreement, and neither his motion to enforce nor his MSJ could substitute for that required pleading. The Court of Appeals therefore reversed and remanded to the trial court, where Mahesh no doubt will now plead breach and take a second swing at enforcing the agreement.