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Raddatz v. Gem Rental Properties, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

February 22, 2017

Cynthia RADDATZ, Vernon Rocchi, and Grant Rocchi, Appellants
v.
GEM RENTAL PROPERTIES, LLC and Gem Rentals, LLC, Appellees

         From the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-CI-16953 Honorable Antonia Arteaga, Judge

          Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Irene Rios, Justice.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MARIALYN BARNARD, JUSTICE.

         Appellants Cynthia Raddatz, Vernon Rocchi, and Grant Rocchi appeal the trial court's order granting a motion for summary judgment filed by Gem Rental Properties, LLC and Gem Rentals, LLC. The order dismisses appellants' claims based on the doctrine of res judicata. The appellants contend the trial court erred in granting the summary judgment because: (1) the defendants in appellants' first lawsuit are different than the defendants in the underlying lawsuit; (2) any claim that the defendants are the same is barred by the legal doctrine of collateral estoppel; and (3) the assertion of res judicata as an affirmative defense is barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         In December of 2012, Gem Rental Properties LLC conveyed the property located at 722 E. Drexel in San Antonio, Texas (the "Property") to Vernon C. Rocchi and Cynthia J. Raddatz as husband and wife. The deed was executed by Jim Glasgow as legal representative of Gem Rental Properties, LLC. In connection with the conveyance, Rocchi and Raddatz executed a deed of trust and a mortgage agreement agreeing to make monthly payments on the $20, 000 Gem Rental Properties, LLC lent Rocchi and Raddatz to purchase the Property.

         On January 5, 2015, Rocchi and Raddatz filed an original petition against "JIM GLASGOW, INDIVIDUALLY and D/B/A GEM PROPERTIES" seeking injunctive relief and a restraining order to prevent "GLASGOW-GEM" from foreclosing on the Property. The petition alleged "GLASGOW-GEM" "had not been accepting or claiming the payments [Rocchi and Raddatz] tendered" by certified mail, return receipt requested.

         On March 18, 2015, an original answer was filed identifying Glasgow, individually, and Gem Properties, L.L.C. as the defendants answering the lawsuit. The answer explained that Gem Rentals, L.L.C. is a Texas limited liability company, and the business with Rocchi and Raddatz "was transacted and conducted by Gem Rentals, L.L.C."[1] The answer further asserted the petition contained a defect because Glasgow "never committed any act in his own name such as to incur personal liability." Therefore, Glasgow asserted he was not liable in the capacity in which he was sued.

         The answer also asserted the affirmative defenses of laches and estoppel, contending "Defendants would show that GEM RENTALS, L.L.C. has already foreclosed upon the property indefinitely referred to in Plaintiffs' pleadings, and that it is too late for this Court to enjoin a foreclosure that has already occurred. Having failed to timely present their request for injunctive relief to this Court, Plaintiffs are now estopped from raising this claim."

         On May 29, 2015, the trial court granted a motion to dismiss Rocchi's and Raddatz's cause of action with prejudice. In the order, the trial court found Glasgow was not liable in the capacity in which he was sued. The trial court also found "no such entity as GEM PROPERTIES exists, nor is GEM PROPERTIES the same entity as Gem Rentals, L.L.C." Finally, the trial court found Rocchi and Raddatz "failed to timely bring their cause of action" and "their claim is subject to the defense of laches." The trial court dismissed the claim with prejudice concluding "it is now too late to obtain the relief sought by Plaintiffs." Rocchi and Raddatz did not appeal the trial court's order.

         On October 6, 2015, the appellants filed the underlying lawsuit against Gem Rental Properties, LLC and Gem Rentals, LLC (collectively "Gem Rentals") asserting various wrongful foreclosure claims. Gem Rentals moved for summary judgment based on the affirmative defense of res judicata, and the trial court granted the motion.

         Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's granting of a summary judgment de novo. Valence Operating Co. v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005). To prevail on a traditional motion for summary judgment, the movant must show "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the [movant] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); see also Diversicare Gen. Partner, Inc. v. Rubio, 185 S.W.3d 842, 846 (Tex. 2005). In reviewing a summary judgment, we take as true all evidence favorable to the non-movant, indulging every reasonable inference and resolving any doubts in the non-movant's favor. Joe v. Two Thirty Nine Joint Venture, 145 S.W.3d 150, 157 (Tex. 2004).

         Res ...


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