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Bernat v. Sotelo

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

January 16, 2014

ALFRED F. BERNAT, Appellant
v.
TOMAS SOTELO AND BENANCIA SOTELO, Appellees

On Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law No. 4 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1016865

Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Bland and Huddle.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Sherry Radack, Chief Justice

Plaintiff-appellee Alfred Bernat appeals the trial court's summary judgment. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Bernat sued defendants-appellees Tomas Sotelo and Benancia Sotelo in the Harris County Civil Court at Law, seeking possession of certain real property on Larkin Street and an award of damages. Specifically, Bernat's petition alleges that he has expended money for repairs and maintenance to parts of the Larkin property, and that the Sotelos have refused to pay rent or move. He also states that he does not remember signing an agreement to sell the property to the Sotelos.

Bernat's petition acknowledges that he brought three unsuccessful forcible entry and detainer proceedings in justice court before filing the underlying suit, but claims that they were wrongfully defeated by the Sotelos' attorney's "fraudulent statements." Bernat's petition identifies the following claims:

"Count I – Unclean Hands": Bernat alleges that the Sotelos and their attorney committed fraud to defeat his eviction suits in justice courts. Under the doctrine of "unclean hands, " Bernat asserts that the Sotelos should be denied relief and he should be awarded equitable damages.
"Count II – Violation of Constitutionally Protected Rights": Bernat alleges that he is entitled to relief under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee that no State will deprive a person of life or liberty without due process of law.
"Count III – Bond – Justice Court Set Bond" Bernat alleges that the $2, 500 appeal bond set by the justice court was a sanction that was "excessive and unreasonable."
"Sanction – Judgment Abused Court Discretion": Bernat contends that the justice court erred in not taking into consideration Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 215 in setting the amount of sanctions awarded against him.
"Conclusion – Fraud Upon the Court": Bernat complains that his rights and privileges were adversely impacted by the Sotelos' actions and the actions of their lawyer and other parties. He asserts that the justice court committed error by ordering him to pay $1, 800 of the Sotelos' attorneys' fees.
"Equitable Rescission": Bernat argues that the deed to the Sotelos should be rescinded based upon "unilateral mistake."

His prayer for relief requested the court enter a final judgment awarding (1) a minimum of $250, 000 in actual damages, (2) punitive damages, (3) all expenses and costs, including attorneys' fees, (4) exemplary and future damages, (5) profits, (6) prejudgment and post-judgment interest, (7) removal of the Sotelos from the Larkin property, (8) $1, 200 in monthly rent for the pendency of the appeal, (9) additional costs and expenses if ...


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