Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Harris County,
Texas Trial Court Case No. 1071269
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Brown and Lloyd
Radack Chief Justice
an appeal from the trial court's dismissal of appellant
Regenia Bechem's bill of review for failure to diligently
prosecute. Because we conclude that the trial court abused
its discretion by dismissing Bechem's case that had been
pending less than three months, we reverse and remand for
Prior Litigation and Appeal
prior suit, appellee Reliant Energy Retail Services obtained
a money judgment against Bechem.
later filed an Application for Writ of Garnishment seeking a
post-judgment writ of garnishment directed at Bechem's
bank, appellee Comerica Bank. The trial court issued the
writ, and Comerica filed an answer stating that it had two
deposit accounts associated with Bechem's name: (1) a
joint checking account held by Bechem and her mother, and (2)
a custodial account Bechem held on behalf of her daughter.
The Bank's answer asserted that the custodial account
might be exempt from seizure because Bechem was not the
beneficial owner. Reliant agreed and released any claim to
filed an Original Answer and Motion to Dissolve the Writ
claiming that the joint account was also exempt from seizure
because (1) it was exempt personal property, and (2) it was a
"convenience" account established for the benefit
of her mother.
did not appear at trial, but Reliant and Comerica did.
Reliant and Comerica announced a settlement had been reached
between them and requested entry of judgment. The trial court
entered a judgment awarding funds from Bechem's joint
account to Reliant in satisfaction of its judgment and to
Comerica for its attorneys' fees. Bechem filed an
objection to the settlement and a motion for new trial, which
the trial court denied.
Fourteenth Court of Appeals reversed. Bechem v. Reliant
Energy Retail Servs., 441 S.W.3d 839 (Tex. App.-Houston
[14th Dist.] 2014, no pet.). It rejected the trial
court's characterization of the judgment as
"agreed" since Bechem did not agree to the
settlement-only Reliant and Comerica did. Id. at
845-46. The court of appeals explained that the judgment was
instead properly characterized as a post-answer default
judgment. Id. at 846. Because no record was taken of
trial, the court of appeals could not evaluate whether
evidence supported the default judgment. Id.
Accordingly, it reversed the judgment and remanded to the
trial court. Id.
remand, the trial court set a January 12, 2015 trial date. At
the agreed request of the parties, the trial court continued
that setting. Trial was reset for, and held on, March 30,
August 14, 2015, the trial court entered judgment in
Bechem's favor, dissolved the writ of garnishment and
released Comerica as garnishee. The court denied, however,
Bechem's request to recover her attorneys' fees.
The Underlying Proceeding
December 11, 2015, Bechem filed the underlying bill of review
contending that the parties did not receive notice of the
August 14, 2015 judgment until November 25, 2015. It was
supported by a sworn affidavit from her attorney, who alleged
that "as a result of not being given official notice
that the judgment had been signed, the timetables and
deadlines contained in Tex.R.Civ.P. 306a(4) and 329b have
expired, and the only relief available to the Judgment
Defendant-Petition is through a Bill of Review."
Finally, he contended the bill of review was filed promptly
after receiving notice, and that Bechem "has a