Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
Erma J. Matthews, Appellant
Jerome Solomon c/o Epoch Films, Inc.; Mindy Goldberg, and others, Appellees
THE DISTRICT COURT OF BASTROP COUNTY, 423RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT
NO. 423-3470, HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER DARROW DUGGAN, JUDGE
Chief Justice Rose, Justices Pemberton and Bourland.
Matthews appeals a take-nothing final summary judgment on
claims she had asserted against appellees for alleged
incursions upon her family's property. The gist of
Matthews's complaints on appeal is that the district
court reversibly erred in failing to grant her a no-answer
default judgment during a roughly six-month period between
what she contends was appellees' answer date and when
appellees finally filed their answer. We will affirm the judgment.
lawsuit, Matthews attempted to obtain recovery from persons
involved in filming a television commercial at Meyer's
Elgin Smokehouse in May 2014. During filming, she alleged,
the film crew trespassed upon and obtained benefit from using
property her family owns nearby. Matthews filed her suit on
November 6, 2014, and Solomon, whom she purported to sue as
the registered agent of "Epoch Films, Inc., "
received process by certified mail on November 25, 2014.
Although appellees disputed that Solomon had been properly
served or that Matthews had even sued any proper defendant,
they eventually filed an answer on June 2, 2015, "[i]n
order to cease the correspondence from
Plaintiff." Appellees then filed a
"traditional" motion for summary judgment, which
the district court granted, rendering final judgment that
Matthews take nothing on her claims. This appeal followed.
appellate complaints are all premised on asserted error by
the district court in failing to grant her a no-answer
default judgment once appellees failed to answer by 10 a.m.
on Monday, December 22, 2014 (the answer date if one assumes
the November 25 transmission of process to Solomon had been
effective service). We review a complaint regarding the denial
of a motion for default judgment under an abuse-of-discretion
standard. We find no abuse of discretion here for at
least two reasons.
while Matthews insists that she made "repeated
requests" for a default judgment in the interim between
the asserted December 22 answer date and when appellees
finally answered the following June, the record does not bear
out this assertion factually. Matthews points to a January
20, 2015 "Motion and Notice of Hearing, " but it
contains no request for a hearing to obtain a default
judgment, whether by name or in substance. Moreover, after
Matthews's motion prompted the district court to set a
status conference, Matthews requested that the status hearing
"be ruled unnecessary, " and it ultimately never
went forward. Consequently, even if Matthews's January 20
motion (or any subsequent correspondence) could be construed
as seeking a default judgment, she ultimately waived any
error in failing to obtain a hearing on the
and more critically, the answer appellees filed on June 2
rendered moot any complaint by Matthews with the district
court's purported inaction. "Once an answer is on
file, even if it is filed after the due date, the district
court may not render a no-answer default
judgment."Consequently, the filing of an answer
renders moot any complaints regarding the trial court's
failure to rule on a motion for default
judgment. Nor, similarly, did the district court
abuse its discretion in proceeding to rule on appellees'
summary-judgment motion after they filed (as Matthews sees
it) an untimely answer. "Although there is a
'deadline' for filing an answer, which is,
technically, the Monday next after twenty days after the date
of service . . . an answer may also be filed at any time
before default, " and a defendant may file a
traditional motion for summary judgment "at any
affirm the district court's judgment.
 Matthews has attempted to represent
herself throughout these proceedings. Although we have
endeavored to address her arguments as best we can understand
them, we must ultimately apply the same substantive and
procedural standards to her as we do with litigants
represented by counsel, lest we afford her an unfair
advantage merely because she is pro se. See Mansfield
State Bank v. Cohn, 573 S.W.2d 181, 184-85 (Tex.
 Appellees denied that any entity named
Epoch Films, Inc., currently existed, that Solomon had been
involved with any such entity "for several years, "
or that Goldberg had been "anywhere ...