No Joint and Several Liability for Punitive Damages—Even On a Default Judgment

Full of Faith Cristian Center, Inc. v. May 
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-20-00859-CV (August 11, 2022) 
Justices Reichek, Nowell (opinion available here), and Carlyle 

It pays to follow the rules, even when you’re just proving up a default judgment. The Mays obtained a default judgment against defendants Full of Faith Christian Center and its principals in a case alleging nuisance, trespass, negligence, and unlawful diversion of water. The trial court entered judgment awarding actual and punitive damages against all defendants jointly and severally. 

The Dallas Court of Appeals rejected all of the defendants’ arguments on appeal concerning the citation and adequacy of service and would have affirmed the judgment. But it held the trial court erred in rendering judgment awarding punitive damages against all defendants jointly and severally. Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 41.006 provides that, in any action in which there are two or more defendants, an award of exemplary damages must be specific as to a defendant, and each defendant is liable only for the amount of the award made against that defendant. The Court therefore reversed for a new trial on punitive damages only.
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