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Biggest Texas Cases of 2020

Bracewell’s Yvonne Ho discussed with Law360 reporter Michelle Casady some of the most impactful Texas rulings of 2020.

The first case involved a closely watched legal malpractice lawsuit against litigation boutique founder Bill Brewer, where the Texas Supreme Court held there must be evidence that an attorney’s alleged harmful conduct was carried out in bad faith to prove sanctions.

The ruling sent a message to trial court judges that “there’s an extremely strict test that needs to be met in order for sanctions,” said Ho. “What this Texas Supreme Court opinion shows is how high that threshold is,” she added, explaining the court found no evidence Brewer’s conduct was “intentional.”

Ho also examined the Texas Supreme Court ending a malpractice lawsuit against Quilling Selander Lownds Winslett & Moser PC in February. The court found Cherlyn Bethel, who lost her case against a trailer manufacturer represented by Quilling Selander, is barred from suing the firm for dismantling the brakes she claimed were faulty and led to the crash that killed her husband.

Ho said the case should be considered important because it’s one of the few decisions from the Texas Supreme Court construing the state’s Rule 91a dismissal mechanism, which provides an early avenue for defeating a case based on the claims in a plaintiff’s petition.

“The court’s conclusion is consistent with the approach in federal court with Rule 12(b)(6) under the federal rules of civil procedure,” Ho said. “If on the face of the pleading it’s clear that claims are precluded by affirmative defenses, then they can be dismissed. So now we know that the same is true under 91a.”

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