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Pajooh v. Abedi

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

April 18, 2017

MASSOOD DANESH PAJOOH, Appellant
v.
MEHDI ABEDI, Appellee IN RE MASSOOD DANESH PAJOOH

         On Appeal from the 234th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2015-05195

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING WRIT OF MANDAMUS 234th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2015-05195

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost, and Justices Brown and Jewell.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Marc W. Brown Justice

         The trial court imposed sanctions against plaintiff Massood Danesh Pajooh under rule 13 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, awarding defendant Mehdi Abedi $8, 365 in attorney's fees for defending against Pajooh's slander case. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 13, 215.2(b)(8). The trial court also awarded Abedi $20, 000 if Pajooh filed an unsuccessful appeal in the court of appeals and $10, 000 if Pajooh filed a petition for review not granted by the Supreme Court of Texas or if Pajooh filed a petition for review that was granted but ultimately unsuccessful.

         Pajooh filed both an appeal and a petition for writ of mandamus. On its own motion, this court consolidated Pajooh's appeal (No. 14-16-00336-CV) and original proceeding (No. 14-16-00351-CV). We affirm the trial court's judgment and deny Pajooh's petition for writ of mandamus as moot.

         I. Background

         In January 2015, Pajooh filed suit pro se against Abedi for making a "libelous and slanderous" statement. Pajooh alleged that Abedi told Gus Parvizian that Pajooh "suffers from HIV positive" or "Aids [sic]." Pajooh alleged $250, 000 in damages. Abedi filed an original answer. Within his answer, Abedi alleged: "This suit is groundless and brought in bad faith and for purposes of harassment." Abedi requested that he be awarded his attorney's fees "as sanctions."

         Pajooh filed a notice of nonsuit on October 21, 2015. That same day, the trial court signed an "Order of Non-Suit with Prejudice." On October 30, 2015, Abedi filed a motion to award attorney's fees. On November 18, 2015, Abedi filed a motion for new trial requesting that the trial court grant a new trial of the portion of the trial court's order dismissing Pajooh's claims with prejudice without awarding Abedi his incurred attorney's fees.

         The trial court held an evidentiary hearing in January 2016. The trial court signed a final judgment on January 25, 2016. The trial court ordered that the matter was dismissed with prejudice, with costs assessed against each party. The trial court ordered that Abedi recover as sanctions from Pajooh $8, 365 for Abedi's reasonable attorney's fees and expenses in defending the matter. The trial court further ordered an award of conditional attorney's fees of $20, 000 for an unsuccessful appeal to the court of appeals and $10, 000 for an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas.

         On February 24, 2016, Pajooh filed a motion for new trial. Abedi filed a response and a proposed amended final judgment. On April 21, 2016, the trial court signed its amended final judgment, dismissing the matter with prejudice and awarding the same attorney's fees to Abedi as the original final judgment. That same day, Pajooh filed his notice of appeal. On April 28, 2016, Pajooh filed a petition for writ of mandamus. On its own motion, this court consolidated Pajooh's appeal and original proceeding.

         II. Analysis

         A. The trial court had jurisdiction to order sanctions.

         In his first issue, Pajooh argues that the trial court's judgment awarding sanctions is void because under rule 162 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure the court "lacked jurisdiction to act" after Pajooh's nonsuit and failed to reinstate the cause. In his second issue, Pajooh contends that the trial court could not award sanctions against him because Abedi did not assert any claim for affirmative relief before Pajooh filed his notice of nonsuit. Pajooh asserts that Abedi's answer was "purely defensive and limited to a resistance of plaintiffs' [sic] claims." We consider these related issues together and find no merit in either one.

         Under rule 162, a plaintiff may nonsuit a claim at any time before introducing all of the plaintiff's evidence other than rebuttal evidence. Tex.R.Civ.P. 162; Epps v. Fowler, 351 S.W.3d 862, 868 (Tex. 2011). "A nonsuit terminates a case from the moment the motion is filed." Epps, 351 S.W.3d at 868 (citing Travelers Ins. Co. v. Joachim, 315 S.W.3d 860, 862 (Tex. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). However, "[a] plaintiff's nonsuit does not affect an opponent's pending claims for affirmative relief, attorney's fees, or sanctions." Stroman v. Tautenhahn, 465 S.W.3d 715, 717 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2015, pet. dism'd w.o.j.); see Tex. R. Civ. P. 162 ("A dismissal under this rule shall have no effect on any motion for sanctions, attorney's fees or other costs, pending at the time of dismissal, as determined by the ...


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