Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
THE 48TH DISTRICT COURT OF TARRANT COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO.
LIVINGSTON, C.J.; GABRIEL and PITTMAN, JJ.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
Ty Howerton appeals from the trial court's final judgment
that confirmed an arbitration award entered in favor of
appellees Dr. Michael N. Wood and Cindy Wood (the Woods). We
affirm the trial court's judgment.
appeal arises from a home renovation that went horribly
wrong. In 2010, the Woods bought a home in Mansfield, Texas,
for $1.35 million and hired Federal Resources, Inc. (FRI),
Howerton's company, to be the general contractor for
their extensive renovation plans. Howerton originally agreed
to perform the renovations for approximately $625, 000,
"subject to adjustments for changes." The
general-contractor agreement between FRI and the Woods
included an arbitration clause, mandating arbitration before
a "single arbitrator" for "any and all claims
or disputes between the Contractor and the Client arising out
or relating to the Contract Documents." The agreement
included a clause placing proper venue for "an
arbitration or subsequent legal action" in "Tarrant
County, Texas." The parties did not attempt to
contractually expand or limit the judicial review of any
resulting arbitration award. See generally Hoskins v.
Hoskins, 497 S.W.3d 490, 495-96 (Tex. 2016) (holding
parties may not expand judicial review of arbitration award
under Texas arbitration law); Denbury Onshore, LLC v.
Texcal Energy S. Tex., L.P., No. 14-15-00439-CV, 2016 WL
7108246, at *4-5 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 6,
2016, no pet.) (discussing effect of parties' contractual
expansion of judicial review of arbitration award under
federal and Texas arbitration law). The Woods and Howerton,
as "President" of FRI, signed the agreement.
the Woods obtain financing for their construction loan,
Howerton enlisted Brian Ramon, Howerton's
"associate" and the owner of a foundation- repair
business, to co-sign the construction loan with Frost Bank.
Ramon signed the construction-loan agreement as the
"Owner" of FRI, identified as the
"Contractor" in the agreement with Frost Bank.
the renovations, the Wood family, which included the
Woods' four children, lived in the home's detached,
one-bedroom pool house. The Woods believed they would be in
the pool house for four months, but their stay ultimately
lasted three and a half years. The project had major problems
from the beginning, which Howerton characterizes as
"substantial overruns, " leading Howerton to tell
the Woods that it would cost an additional $850, 000 to
finish the project. But by November 2011, all work on the
project had stopped, the Woods had paid Howerton
approximately $900, 000, and the Woods discovered that
Howerton had not been paying the subcontractors and suppliers
out of those funds. In February 2012, the Woods discovered
that Howerton had pleaded guilty on August 31, 2010, to
conspiracy to commit wire fraud by receiving money from
others based on his assertion to them that he would invest
the money in property while actually using the money for his
own purposes. See 18 U.S.C.A. §§
1343, 1349 (West 2015). On July 10, 2012, Howerton was
sentenced to sixty months in federal prison and ordered to
pay $7, 905, 767 in restitution.
before Howerton was sentenced, the Woods filed suit against
Howerton, FRI, Ramon, and Ramon's foundation-repair
business raising claims for breach of contract, breach of
warranty, fraud, violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices
Act (DTPA), violations of the Construction Trust Fund Act,
breach of fiduciary duty, knowing participation in a breach
of fiduciary duty, negligence, and violations of the Theft
Liability Act. The defendants, all represented by counsel,
moved to compel arbitration based on the clause in the
general-contractor agreement. The Woods agreed to proceed to
arbitration. Accordingly, the trial court entered an agreed
order compelling arbitration, appointing an arbitrator, and
staying the judicial proceedings pending the outcome of the
arbitrator held a five-day hearing in September and October
2014, and entered an award in favor of the Woods on November
12, 2014. Howerton was represented by counsel at the
arbitration hearing and testified by telephone on the last
day of the hearing. The arbitrator found in the Woods'
favor on each of their claims and determined that the awarded
damages attributable to FRI could be recovered from Howerton
and Ramon jointly and severally.
Woods then filed an application for the trial court to
confirm the arbitration award. See Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code Ann. § 171.087 (West 2011) Howerton, who
was still represented by counsel, filed a pro se motion to
vacate or modify the arbitration award. One month after
Howerton filed his motion, his counsel moved to withdraw on
the grounds that he had not been paid, which the trial court
granted. Ramon then moved to vacate the arbitration award as
trial court held a hearing on the post-arbitration motions in
August 2015 and took judicial notice of the arbitration
record. On September 11, 2015, the trial court denied
Howerton's and Ramon's motions and granted the
Woods' motion to confirm the award. The Woods elected to
recover under their DTPA claim; therefore, the trial court
entered judgment, awarding the Woods damages against Ramon,
Howerton, and FRI, jointly and severally, in the amount of
$2, 572, 980 plus attorneys' fees, the arbitrator's
fee, and costs. See id. § 171.092 (West 2011).
Howerton appeals from the trial court's judgment and
argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to
vacate or modify and by confirming the arbitration
SCOPE AND STANDARD OF THIS COURT'S REVIEW