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Davis v. Galagaza

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

April 18, 2017

ERIK DAVIS, Appellant
v.
JOSEPH GALAGAZA, INDIVIDUALLY, JACKSON LEWIS LLP, AND PROTECT CONTROLS, INC., Appellees

         On Appeal from the 151st District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2014-66506

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Kevin Jewell Justice

         The present dispute stems from the settlement and dismissal of a separate lawsuit. Appellant Erik Davis previously sued his former employer, and that suit was dismissed upon a settlement agreement. Davis alleged that his attorney in the prior suit settled without his consent, and he obtained a judgment against that attorney. In the case before us, Davis again sues his former employer, together with the law firm that represented the employer in the prior suit, and an individual attorney at the law firm. The trial court granted summary judgment to appellees. We affirm.

         Background

         Davis sued his former employer, Protect Controls, Inc., for employment discrimination. The law firm Jackson Lewis LLP and John Galagaza, an attorney at Jackson Lewis, represented Protect Controls in that suit. Attorney John-Baptist Sekumade represented Davis. The parties reached a purported settlement agreement, and Sekumade represented to Galagaza that Davis had authorized Sekumade to sign the agreement on Davis's behalf. Sekumade then filed a non-suit of Davis's claims against Protect Controls. Davis later contended that Sekumade signed the settlement agreement without Davis's consent.[1]

         In the present lawsuit, Davis sued Jackson Lewis, Galagaza, and Protect Controls for fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy.[2] The crux of Davis's allegations is that Jackson Lewis and Galagaza knew that Sekumade's signature (on Davis's behalf) on the settlement agreement was fraudulent and forged.

         Jackson Lewis and Galagaza moved for traditional and no-evidence summary judgment. The grounds for traditional summary judgment were that: (1) Davis's claims were barred by limitations; (2) Davis's claims were barred by absolute judicial immunity; (3) Davis suffered no damages as a matter of law; (4) Davis could not recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (5) the breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim failed for lack of awareness and causation. In their no-evidence motion, Jackson Lewis and Galagaza argued that Davis had no evidence of: (1) damages, for any claim; (2) Davis's distress or defendants' intent to cause distress, regarding the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; (3) any misrepresentation, knowledge of falsity, or reliance, regarding the fraud claim; and (4) defendants' intent that Sekumade breach any duty to Davis, regarding Davis's claim for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty. Protect Controls purported to incorporate by reference its co-defendants' motion for summary judgment, and argued that any liability of Protect Controls was derivative of liability of Jackson Lewis and Galagaza.

         Davis filed a response and attached an affidavit purporting to authenticate a number of records attached to the affidavit. Jackson Lewis and Galagaza moved to strike Davis's affidavit (and attached documents), which the trial court granted. Davis does not challenge this ruling on appeal.

         The trial court granted summary judgment to Jackson Lewis and Galagaza, dismissing Davis's claims against those two defendants with prejudice, without specifying the grounds on which it was granting summary judgment. The trial court separately granted summary judgment to Protect Controls, again without specifying the grounds; this order fully and finally adjudicated all claims against all parties.

         Davis timely appealed.

         Analysis

         Davis raises numerous issues on appeal. In his first issue, he argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. In his second issue, he argues that the trial court erred in denying Davis's motion to compel production of documentation in reference to Texas Rule of Evidence 503(d)(1) and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). In his third issue, he argues that his original petition lists fraud, concealment, aiding and abetting, forgery, and securing execution of documentation by means of deception, as causes of action. In his fourth issue, he argues that Jackson Lewis and Galagaza acted under a conflict of interest. In his fifth issue, he argues that ERISA provides for a six-year statute of limitations for cases of concealment and fraud.[3]

         1. Summary ...


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