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Indira S. Patel v. Patrick O'connor & Associates

April 25, 2013

INDIRA S. PATEL, APPELLANT
v.
PATRICK O'CONNOR & ASSOCIATES, LP,
APPELLEE



On Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law No. 2 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 952135

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sharon McCally Justice

In The Fourteenth Court of Appeals

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Appellee Patrick O'Connor & Associates, LP sued Indira S. Patel for breach of contract and quantum meruit. The trial court granted appellee's traditional motion for summary judgment on both of appellee's claims. We reverse and remand.

I.BACKGROUND

Patel owned a hotel and was renovating it. Appellee is a business that provides property tax reduction services. On July 19, 2006, Patel's then-husband Sukhumar signed a "property tax services engagement agreement" with appellee. Under his signature, his title is described as "manager." Pursuant to the agreement, appellee would represent Sukhumar in reducing his property taxes, and Sukhumar agreed to pay 30% of any tax savings achieved through administrative proceedings and 50% of tax savings resulting from arbitration or litigation. The written agreement does not include Patel's name, and it does not identify the property for which appellee agreed to render service.

Appellee claims that it performed services in 2006 and 2008, reducing the property tax owed on Patel's property, but Patel did not pay for the services. Appellee sued for breach of contract and quantum meruit and filed a motion for summary judgment on both of its claims.*fn1 Appellee attached evidence, including among other things: (1) the agreement; (2) excerpts from Patel's deposition; (3) invoices appellee allegedly sent to Sukhumar for its services; (4) correspondence appellee allegedly sent to Sukhumar; (5) an agreed final judgment between Patel and HCAD, signed by Patel's purported attorney; (6) correspondence from HCAD and the Appraisal Review Board allegedly sent to Patel and appellee at appellee's address; and (7) Patel's responses to appellee's requests for admission.

Patel filed a response and attached her affidavit, testifying that she did not sign the agreement alleged to be the contract in this case. The first time she saw the document was after being sued. She explained:

The first time I discovered that Plaintiff had been providing services was in 2007 when I went to protest my taxes and found it had already been done. In 2007, after I discovered that Plaintiff had been protesting my 2006 property taxes, I called them and told Plaintiff's representatives on the phone that I did not want their services and stop immediately. The woman on the phone told me they would stop protesting my taxes. Sukhumar Patel never told me he had signed any kind of agreement with Plaintiff. . . . I was never told in 2006 that Plaintiff expected me to pay for what they were doing.

Patel testified further concerning the lack of an agency relationship between her and Sukhumar:

Sukhumar Patel was never authorized by me to be my agent or to sign me up for any contracts or agreements. In fact, I had an explicit conversation with Sukhumar Patel to not pledge my property or sign me up for anything . . . . I never heard him say he was a manager of my property, and I never authorized him to be a manager of my property. . . . He was not authorized to sign for anything or handle any money or contracts.

The trial court signed an order granting appellee's motion for summary judgment, awarding $23,300.40 in damages and $5,000 in attorney's fees. Patel appealed.

II.ANALYSIS

Patel contends the trial court erred by granting summary judgment because there are disputed fact issues on both claims. On the breach of contract claim, she argues there is a fact issue concerning whether Sukhumar was her agent. On the quantum meruit claim, she argues there are fact issues concerning ...


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