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Saldana v. Hinojosa

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

March 8, 2017

Ruth Isela Acevedo SALDANA, Appellant
v.
Sonia Patricia HINOJOSA, Appellee

         From the 381st Judicial District Court, Starr County, Texas Trial Court No. DC-15-433 Honorable Jose Luis Garza, Judge Presiding

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

          OPINION

          Marialyn Barnard, Justice

         Appellant Ruth Isela Acevedo Saldana appeals the trial court's order dismissing her suit for want of prosecution. We reverse the trial court's order and remand this matter for further proceedings.[1]

         Background

         In July 2015, Saldana filed suit against appellee Sonia Patricia Hinojosa, seeking damages for injuries she sustained in a motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by Hinojosa. On October 20, 2015, the trial court issued a notice stating the matter was set for "Docket Control Conference/DWOP" on November 4, 2015. On November 4, 2015, Saldana filed a motion for continuance, seeking to reschedule the docket control conference. The trial court granted the motion and reset the "DCC/DWOP" for December 9, 2015. In addition to its order, the trial court also issued a notice, stating the matter was set for "Docket Control Conference/DWOP" on December 9, 2015. Two days before the scheduled setting, Saldana filed her second motion for continuance. The trial court did not rule on the second motion for continuance; rather, on December 10, 2015, the trial court signed a document entitled "Court's Motion and Order of Dismissal for Lack of Prosecution." In that order, the court advised that on December 9, 2015, it called the case for the scheduled "Docket Control Conference/DWOP, " but Saldana did not appear. Accordingly, the court ordered the case dismissed without prejudice. Thereafter, Saldana filed a motion for new trial - which was overruled by operation of law, and a notice of appeal.

         Analysis

         On appeal, Saldana contends the trial court erred in dismissing her suit for want of prosecution. Saldana argues she was denied due process because the trial court failed to provide adequate notice of its intent to dismiss the suit for want of prosecution. We agree.

         Standard of Review

         An appellate court reviews a trial court's decision to dismiss for want of prosecution under the abuse of discretion standard. Dobroslavic v. Bexar Appraisal Dist., 397 S.W.3d 725, 728 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2012, pet. denied) (citing MacGregor v. Rich, 941 S.W.2d 74, 75 (Tex. 1997)); Woods v. Schoenhofen, 302 S.W.3d 576, 578 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2009, no pet.) (citing Villarreal v. San Antonio Truck & Equip., 994 S.W.2d 628, 630 (Tex. 1999)). A trial court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner or without reference to any guiding rules or principles. Samlowski v. Wooten, 332 S.W.3d 404, 410 (Tex. 2011); Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 728. A corollary principle is that an appellate court may not reverse for abuse of discretion merely because it disagrees with the trial court's decision. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc. v. Robinson, 923 S.W.2d 549, 558 (Tex. 1995); Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 728.

         Substantive Law

         A trial court has authority to dismiss for want of prosecution based on two sources. Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 728. The first source of authority is found in Rule 165a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Tex.R.Civ.P. 165a; Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 728. The second source is based on the trial court's inherent power. Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 728. Rule 165a provides that a trial court may dismiss for want of prosecution: (1) if a party seeking affirmative relief fails to appear for any hearing or trial of which he had notice; or (2) when a case has not been disposed of pursuant to the time standards promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court. Tex.R.Civ.P. 165a; Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 728-29. Under common law, a trial court has inherent power to dismiss when a plaintiff fails to prosecute his case with due diligence. Dobroslavic, 397 S.W.3d at 729. This power arises from a trial court's power to control its docket. Id.

         Before a trial court may dismiss pursuant to either Rule 165a or its inherent authority, the party subject to dismissal must be provided with notice and an opportunity to be heard. Id. (citing Villarreal, 994 S.W.2d at 630). As this court recognized in Dobroslavic, the supreme court has held inadequate notice of an intent to dismiss mandates reversal because a party's due process rights have been violated. Id.; see Tex. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Olivas, 323 S.W.3d 266, 273 (Tex. App.- El Paso 2010, no pet.); but see Keough v. Cyrus U.S.A., Inc., 204 S.W.3d 1, 5-6 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, pet. denied) (holding motion to reinstate with opportunity for hearing cures due process violation); Hernandez v. ISE, Inc., No. 04-06-00888-CV, 2008 WL 80005, at *3 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Jan. 9, 2008, no pet.) (mem. op.) (same).[2]

         A ...


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