Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
GWEN M. ROWLING, Appellant
HARRY H. ROWLING, Appellee.
from the 41st District Court of El Paso County, Texas (TC#
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
T. RODRIGUEZ, Justice
Rowling is appealing from the trial court's order
discharging the receiver and ordering disbursement of the
sale proceeds. Appellee, Harry H. Rowling, has filed a motion
to dismiss the appeal because Appellant accepted the benefits
of the trial court's judgment. We grant the motion and
dismiss the appeal.
Harry H. Rowling (Harry), filed a suit for partition of real
property located in El Paso, Texas. The petition alleged that
Harry and Appellant, Gwen M. Rowling (Gwen), each inherited a
one-half interest in the property, and he sought the
appointment of a receiver to market and sell the real
property and its contents, and to distribute the proceeds to
the parties in accordance with their ownership interests.
Finding that the property is incapable of division, the trial
court granted the request for appointment of a receiver and
for sale of the property. The receiver filed a motion for
sanctions asserting that Gwen had violated the trial
court's order to refrain from threatening the receiver or
interfering with her work. Following a hearing, the trial
court granted the motion for sanctions and ordered Gwen to
pay the sum of $500 to the receiver, and further ordered that
the $500 would be deducted from Gwen's share of the
proceeds of the sale of real and personal property belonging
to the Estate of Vada Rowling. The receiver later filed an
application for discharge after the real and personal
property was sold. The receiver's accounting and report
reflect that the $500 sanctions imposed against Gwen were
deducted from her share of the proceeds as provided for by
the sanctions order. The trial court entered an order
discharging the receiver and ordering her to disburse the sum
of $16, 799.18 to Gwen as her share of the proceeds. Gwen
timely filed her notice of appeal from that order and from
the sanctions order.
has moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that Gwen
accepted the benefits of the trial court's judgment by
accepting the sale proceeds distributed to her by the
receiver. Gwen is attempting to challenge two orders on
appeal, the order discharging the receiver, and the order
sanctioning Gwen in the amount of $500 for threatening the
receiver. In considering Harry's motion to dismiss, we
have considered whether Gwen's acceptance of the sale
proceeds would preclude her challenge to the sanctions order.
While the sanctions order was entered prior to the order
discharging the receiver, the trial court ordered that the
$500 sanction would be deducted from Gwen's share of the
sale proceeds and paid to the receiver. The $500 sanction is
reflected in the documents attached to the receiver's
application for discharge, and it is connected directly to
the trial court's order discharging the receiver
sanction. In other words, if Gwen's challenge to the
sanctions order is sustained, we would be required to also
reverse the order discharging the receiver. Consequently, if
the acceptance of benefits doctrine applies in this case, it
will preclude Gwen's appeal of both orders.
over 150 years, it has been the rule in Texas that a party
who has voluntarily accepted the benefits of a judgment is
not permitted to challenge the same judgment on appeal.
See Kramer v. Kastleman, ___ S.W.3d ___,
2017 WL 382421, at *4 (Tex. January 27, 2017); Carle
v. Carle, 149 Tex. 469, 472, 234 S.W.2d 1002,
1004 (1950); F.M.G.W. v. D.S.W., 402 S.W.3d 329,
332-34 (Tex.App.--El Paso 2013, no pet.); Richards v.
Richards, 371 S.W.3d 412, 414 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st
Dist.] 2012, no pet.)(opn. on reh'g); Harlow Land
Company, Ltd. v. City of Melissa, 314 S.W.3d
713, 716 (Tex.App.--Dallas 2010, no pet.). This rule is
generally referred to as the acceptance of benefits doctrine
and it is based on estoppel. See Kramer, ___ S.W.3d
___, 2017 WL 382421, at *4; Harlow Land Company, 314
S.W.3d at 716. Further, the doctrine is anchored in equity.
Kramer, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2017 WL 382421, at *4. The
Supreme Court observed the following in Kramer:
Conceptually, the doctrine infers an agreement to terminate
the litigation because the judgment has been voluntarily paid
and accepted, or implies a waiver, release of errors, or
admission that the decree is valid. The doctrine's
equitable objective of precluding an appeal when a
litigant's actions are inconsistent with a claim of error
furthers finality, preserves scarce judicial resources, and
guards against gamesmanship.
Kramer, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2017 WL 382421, at *5.
The burden of proving an estoppel rests on the party
asserting it, and the failure to prove all essential elements
is fatal. Kramer, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2017 WL 382421, at
*4. When the doctrine applies, the appeal is rendered moot
and it is must be dismissed. F.M.G.W., 402 S.W.3d at
332; Harlow Land Company, 314 S.W.3d at 716.
jurisprudence related to the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine
has developed, courts have identified exceptions to its
application, including the economic necessity exception.
See Kramer, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2017 WL 382421, at
*9-*10. Under the economic-necessity exception, acceptance is
not voluntary if made under financial duress, which exists
when the appellant otherwise lacked sufficient funds to
provide the necessities of life. Kramer, ___ S.W.3d
___, 2017 WL 382421, at *10. The Supreme Court emphasized
that this is not a true exception because rather than
excusing a voluntary acceptance, it recognizes that the
acceptance-of-benefits doctrine simply does not apply when
acceptance is involuntary. Id.
has presented uncontested evidence that Gwen accepted the
sale proceeds in the amount of $16, 799.18. This disbursement
was made pursuant to the trial court's order discharging
the receiver. Thus, Harry has shown that Gwen accepted the