Law Firm Shows Texas Anti-SLAPP Law Applies in Fiduciary Suit

A Houston legislation agency received its bid to dismiss breach of fiduciary responsibility and breach of contract allegations working with the state’s anti-SLAPP law, in accordance to a ruling by the Texas Courtroom of Appeals.

Jetall Cos. Inc. and Hoover Slovacek LLP ended up in court disputing the firm’s representation of a title enterprise operator, soon after Jetall had unsuccessful to purchase the title business.

Hoover Slovacek moved to dismiss the go well with beneath the Texas Citizens Participation Act, arguing Jetall’s case was related to the organization doing exercises its suitable to petition. The business also moved for summary judgment on Jetall’s fraud allegation.

The TCPA applies to the breach of contract and fiduciary responsibility claims lifted by Jetall, for the reason that the law firm was communicating in relation to a judicial continuing, the Texas Court docket of Appeals, Fourteenth District, mentioned Tuesday.

The appeals courtroom rejected Jetall’s argument that the lawyers just can’t invoke their possess TCPA rights, just their clients’, because the regulation only shields a consumer. Hoover Slovacek’s alleged legal responsibility stems from its lawful illustration of Renee Davy through litigation involving Jetall, hence, the appeals court docket explained, these communications pertain to a judicial proceeding, which is secured under the TCPA.

Jetall’s owner, Ali Choudhri, hired Hoover Slovacek LLP in 2010 to symbolize him as a defendant in a deed restriction lawsuit. In 2016, when making an attempt to obtain 50% of a title corporation called Declaration Title, Choudhri asked Declaration’s owner—Davy—and the legislation firm to indication a conflict of interest waiver simply because she was also represented by Hoover Slovacek.

Jetall and Davy signed the waiver and consented to Hoover Slovacek’s representation of Davy in the business transaction. It also bundled a provision that if an adversarial relationship had been to develop, Jetall could talk to the law firm to withdraw its illustration in the organization transaction.

Later on, Jetall invoked this component of the provision, with Davy’s counsel, Michael Ballases of Hoover Slovacek, withdrawing.

Soon after the negotiations fell as a result of, Jetall sued Davy and her then-spouse, Todd Oakum, for breach of contract and fraud simply because they allegedly both equally independently agreed to promote their ownership desire to Jetall but did not. Ballases represented Davy in that fit.

Jetall then submitted a individual lawsuit against Ballases and the law firm alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and a fraud allegation.

‘Mere Speculation’

The appeals court docket also ruled that Jetall unsuccessful to present evidence of its fiduciary duty allegation, mainly because it didn’t deliver proof that the legislation firm utilised private information disclosed by Choudhri in 2010.

“This is very little far more than mere speculation,” Justice Kevin Jewell reported in the feeling.

There is no distinct evidence displaying Hoover Slovacek would use or disclose private details all through the Davy go well with, and thus “no particular evidence of breach,” he included.

Jetall also alleged Hoover Slovacek experienced committed fraud by inducing Jetall to indicator the waiver with no “intention to complete the obligation.”

Hoover Slovacek experienced complied with the waiver, but it did not assure to abstain from representing Davy in the foreseeable future, the court docket mentioned. The wording of the doc especially handles the prospect of marketing ownership of the title business, but claims nothing about potential representation.

The court agreed with the trial court’s determination to grant summary judgment to the regulation agency.

Justices Frances Bourliot and Margaret Poissant had been part of the panel.

Jetall was represented by Camara & Sibley LLP. Legal professionals from Hoover Slovacek represented the agency.

The situation is Jetall Cos. v. Hoover Slovacek, LLP, Tex. App., 14th Dist., No. 14-20-00691-CV, 3/29/22.