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Regent Care Center v. Hollis

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 12, 2017

REGENT CARE CENTER AT MEDICAL CENTER, Appellant
v.
William HOLLIS, Appellee

         From the County Court at Law No. 5, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 380950 Honorable Karen A. Crouch, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Regent Care Center at Medical Center appeals the trial court's dismissal of its suit against William Hollis for want of prosecution and the trial court's denial of its motion to reinstate. Regent Care argues the trial court abused its discretion because Regent Care diligently prosecuted its suit.

         We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         On October 1, 2012, Regent Care filed an original petition suing Hollis to recover on unpaid medical bills. Its claims included a suit on a sworn account, breach of contract, and equitable claims. Hollis was served on October 5, 2012, and he filed an answer on October 29, 2012. In November 2012, Regent Care filed a certificate of written discovery, stating it had served Hollis with several discovery requests. Neither party requested a jury trial. The record reflects no action was taken in the case for more than two years thereafter.

         On March 16, 2015, Regent Care filed a motion to substitute counsel with another lawyer at the same firm representing Regent Care. The motion did not explain why Regent Care sought to substitute counsel, and the record does not contain any indication the motion was set for a hearing or ruled on by the trial court. The record reflects there were no filings for the next six months.

         On September 9, 2015, the trial court issued a notice indicating the case was set for a September 23, 2015 hearing to determine whether the case should be dismissed for want of prosecution. Two days before the hearing, Regent Care filed a motion to retain the case on the trial court's docket. Regent Care alleged Hollis's counsel "suggested" Hollis would file a counterclaim and serve discovery requests, but Hollis's counsel had not done so. Regent Care also alleged it desired to pursue the case "within a reasonable length of time." At the September 23, 2015 hearing, the trial court granted Regent Care's motion to retain. The trial court's order set another dismissal hearing for December 16, 2015. On November 4, 2015, the trial court sent a notice to the parties regarding the December 16, 2015 dismissal hearing. The notice advised the case would be dismissed if a party seeking affirmative relief did not appear at the hearing.

         On October 21, 2015, Regent Care filed a traditional motion for summary judgment on only its sworn-account claim. On December 3, 2015, the trial court heard and denied the motion. Before the hearing, Regent Care filed its second motion to retain, alleging the parties were "currently attempting to negotiate an amicable resolution." At the December 16, 2015 dismissal hearing, the trial court dismissed Regent Care's suit for want of prosecution. A transcript of the December 16, 2015 dismissal hearing has not been made part of the appellate record. However, the trial court's dismissal order recites that Regent Care "failed to appear in person or by attorney, or make an announcement."

         Regent Care filed a motion to reinstate on January 13, 2015, alleging it was ready to set a trial date when the trial court denied its motion for summary judgment. Regent Care argued that if the trial court reinstated the suit, Regent Care would "immediately file a Motion to Set on Non-Jury Docket and request a trial date within sixty days, or sooner if the Court prefers." The trial court heard the motion to reinstate, and Regent Care's counsel stated the long delay "was at [Hollis]'s request because [he] wanted to file an appeal with the insurer that denied his coverage." Hollis's counsel responded Hollis "won that appeal . . . more than two years ago, " and Regent Care "did nothing for two years." Counsel for Regent Care also stated he was assigned to the case in March 2015, the Regent Care representative who had worked on this matter "had left the company, " and Regent Care was working with Hollis "to spare the litigation." Hollis's counsel mentioned the trial court dismissed the suit because the trial court had previously set a "drop dead day." At no time during the suit did Regent Care set the case for trial. The trial court denied Regent Care's motion, and Regent Care appeals.

         Discussion

         We review a trial court's dismissal for want of prosecution and its denial of a motion to reinstate for an abuse of discretion. Rainbow Home Health, Inc. v. Schmidt, 76 S.W.3d 53, 55 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2002, pet. denied). A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts arbitrarily, unreasonably, or without reference to guiding rules or principles. Id. at 56. A trial court does not abuse its discretion when it bases its decision on conflicting evidence or when some evidence of substantive and probative character exists to support the trial court's decision. Johnson v. Hawkins, 255 S.W.3d 394, 397 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2008, pet. denied). "As the fact-finder, the trial court is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses and evidence." Prince v. Am. Bank of Tex., 359 S.W.3d 380, 382 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, no pet.). An abuse of discretion with respect to factual matters occurs only if the record establishes the trial court could reasonably have reached only one decision but failed to do so. Rainbow Home Health, 76 S.W.3d at 56.

         A. Dismissal for ...


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