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Richardson v. Potter's House of Dallas, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

February 27, 2017

DAVID LEE RICHARDSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF S.R. AND S.R., MINOR CHILDREN, Appellant
v.
THE POTTER'S HOUSE OF DALLAS, INC., SHERYL BRADY, T.D. JAKES, J OBY BRADY, AND MARK JEFFRIES, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 296th Judicial District Court Collin County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 296-00395-2015

          Before Justices Lang, Fillmore, and Schenck

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT M. FILLMORE JUSTICE

         David Lee Richardson sued appellees, The Potter's House of Dallas, Inc., Sheryl Brady, T.D. Jakes, Joby Brady, and Mark Jeffries, and asserted claims individually and as next friend of his minor children, S.R. and S.R., for negligence, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and aiding and abetting. Richardson individually asserted additional claims for defamation and assault and battery. The trial court granted appellees' motion for traditional summary judgment on the defamation claim and no-evidence motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims. In one issue, Richardson asserts the trial court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of appellees. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

          Background

         In his petition, Richardson alleged he was a long-time member of, and held a leadership position in, The Potter's House Church's north campus in Parker, Texas. However, after Sheryl Brady, the pastor of the north campus, learned in January 2013 that Richardson had written a book entitled "Sunday Morning Stickup: What Your Pastor Doesn't Want You to Know About Tithes, " he was stripped of his leadership position. Brady also preached a sermon on January 13, 2013, that Richardson interpreted as a "direct threat to his character and a way to discredit the book prior to it being released."

         Richardson further alleged that he attended church services with his two children on January 27, 2013. A police officer asked him to step outside and speak with Jeffries, but he declined to do so until the service was over. Four police officers then carried him from the church against his will. Richardson alleged his two children observed the incident. Richardson asserted claims individually and on behalf of his children for negligence, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and aiding and abetting. He individually asserted additional claims for assault and battery and defamation. Both Richardson and his children sought to recover actual and punitive damages.

         Appellees filed a combined traditional and no-evidence motion for summary judgment. Appellees sought a traditional summary judgment on their affirmative defense that Richardson's defamation claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitation. Appellees requested a no-evidence motion for summary judgment on all of the claims asserted by Richardson, individually and on behalf of his children.

         Richardson responded to the motion, asserting he had produced sufficient evidence to raise a fact issue on his claims for assault and battery, civil conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and aiding and abetting the commission of assault and battery, and on his request for punitive damages. As summary judgment evidence, Richardson relied on his affidavit, a report from the Parker Police Department, and a letter from The Potter's House of Dallas, Inc.'s counsel. The trial court granted a number of appellees' objections to Richardson's summary judgment evidence. Following the trial court's rulings, Richardson's remaining summary judgment evidence consisted of (1) statements in his affidavit that he attended a meeting on January 10, 2013, with Brady and Lawrence Robinson; he attended church services at the north campus on January 13, 2013, with his minor children; he attended church services at the north campus on January 20, 2013, with his wife and his minor children and sat in the back of the middle section of the sanctuary; on January 27, 2013, he attended church services at the north campus with his minor children and sat in the back, because church services were about to begin, he "indicated a willingness to speak with Jeffries after the service, " eventually four police officers arrived and carried him against his will and stated disapproval from the building, and he did not consent to being touched or carried from the building; and on January 31, 2013, he received a letter dated January 29, 2013, from counsel for The Potter's House of Dallas, Inc. entitled "Statutory Notice of Trespass and Notice of Removal as a Church Member, " and (2) the letter from counsel informing Richardson that he had been removed as a member of the church and his entry or presence at church locations would be considered a criminal trespass.

         The trial court signed an order granting appellees' motion for summary judgment. In its order, the trial court noted Richardson did not respond to the motion for summary judgment on the claims for negligence, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation and did not produce evidence of damages suffered by S.R. and S.R.; granted appellees' traditional motion for summary judgment on Richardson's defamation claim; and granted appellees' no-evidence motion for summary judgment on the claims for negligence, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and on the claims that S.R. and S.R. had suffered damages due to appellees' conduct.

         The trial court also found Richardson produced no evidence that any appellee committed an act or omission which constitutes aiding or abetting, and granted appellees' no-evidence motion for summary judgment on that cause of action. As to Richardson's claims for assault and battery and civil conspiracy, the trial court found Richardson failed to produce any competent summary judgment evidence to establish the elements required for either of these causes of action and specifically failed to provide competent summary judgment of any recoverable actual damages in connection with these claims. The trial court granted appellees' no-evidence motion for summary judgment on Richardson's assault and battery and civil conspiracy claims. Finally, the trial court granted appellees' no-evidence motion for summary judgment on Richardson's claim for punitive damages because he failed to produce any competent summary judgment evidence of actual damages or "to establish the standards required by Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, Chapter 41[.]"

         Richardson filed this appeal, challenging only the grant of the no-evidence summary judgment on the assault and battery, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and punitive damages claims.[1] Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's grant of a traditional summary judgment on Richardson's defamation claim and a no-evidence summary judgment on Richardson's and his children's negligence, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. See Yeske v. Piazza Del Arte, Inc., No. 14-15-00633-CV, 2016 WL 7436507, at *12 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 22, 2016, no pet.) (affirming grant of no-evidence motion for summary judgment because appellant did not address claims on appeal).

          Standard of Review

         We review the trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Merriman v. XTO Energy, Inc., 407 S.W.3d 244, 248 (Tex. 2013). After an adequate time for discovery, a party may move for summary judgment on the ground there is no evidence of one or more essential elements of a claim or defense on which an adverse party would have the burden of proof at trial. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(i). The movant must challenge specific elements of the nonmovant's claim or defense on which the nonmovant will have the burden of proof at trial. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(i). To defeat the summary judgment, the nonmovant must ...


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