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True Blue Animal Rescue, Inc. v. Waller County

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

April 20, 2017

TRUE BLUE ANIMAL RESCUE, INC., Appellant
v.
WALLER COUNTY, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 506th District Court Waller County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 16-10-23953

          Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Higley, and Massengale.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL MASSENGALE JUSTICE.

         In this interlocutory appeal, appellant True Blue Animal Rescue, Inc. challenges the trial court's denial of its application for a temporary injunction against appellee Waller County. Because True Blue did not meet its burdens to plead a cause of action against Waller County and to produce some evidence establishing a probable right to relief, we affirm the denial of a temporary injunction.

         Background

         Waller County seized 34 horses from Kathie Digilio, alleging that she had treated them cruelly. The horses were placed in the care of True Blue Animal Rescue, Inc.

         After the seizure of the horses, Waller County brought divestiture proceedings against Digilio under Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 821, in a Waller County justice court. While the divestiture proceedings were pending, Waller County and Digilio entered into an agreement whereby some of the horses would be returned to her, and she would pay $30, 000 to True Blue for the care of the horses. The justice court issued an order in accordance with this agreement.

         True Blue filed suit against Waller County, complaining that the justice court's order was improper. In its petition, True Blue requested that the trial court grant a temporary injunction against Waller County, enjoining enforcement of the order. True Blue's petition also included a claim, in the alternative, for breach of contract against Waller County. This contract claim stemmed from Waller County's alleged breach of an agreement between it and True Blue regarding possession of the horses and payment for their care and treatment.

         The trial court issued a temporary restraining order, enjoining Waller County "from transferring any of the 34 horses involved in the Digilio seizure . . . so that the status quo may be observed" and so that True Blue could assert its "rights regarding the horses and the payment of its incurred costs of care for the horses." The trial court granted three extensions of the temporary restraining order. Following the third extension, the court held a temporary-injunction hearing. During the hearing, the court and parties discussed several disputed procedural issues, including True Blue's standing to sue, whether the State of Texas should have been the proper defendant instead of Waller County, and whether mandamus against the justice court was a more appropriate remedy for True Blue's complaints. The trial court made an oral "finding" that True Blue's petition did "not state a claim" that it could "grant relief on from True Blue's standpoint." After the hearing, the trial court issued an order denying the application for a temporary injunction, without stating its reasons.

         True Blue has appealed the denial of its application for a temporary injunction.

         Analysis

         True Blue contends that the trial court erred by denying its application for a temporary injunction. "In general, a temporary injunction is an extraordinary remedy and does not issue as a matter of right." Walling v. Metcalfe, 863 S.W.2d 56, 57 (Tex. 1993). The purpose of a temporary injunction is to preserve the status quo of the litigation's subject matter pending a trial on the merits. Butnaru v. Ford Motor Co., 84 S.W.3d 198, 204 (Tex. 2002). The status quo is "the last, actual, peaceable, non-contested status which preceded the pending controversy." In re Newton, 146 S.W.3d 648, 651 (Tex. 2004). To obtain a temporary injunction, the applicant ordinarily must plead and prove three specific elements: (1) a cause of action against the defendant; (2) a probable right to the relief sought; and (3) a probable, imminent, and irreparable injury in the interim. Butnaru, 84 S.W.3d at 204. With regard to proving a probable right to the relief sought, the applicant is not required to prove that it will prevail on final trial. Instead, the only question before the trial court is whether the applicant is entitled to preservation of the status quo pending trial. INEOS Grp. Ltd. v. Chevron Phillips Chem. Co., 312 S.W.3d 843, 848 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, no pet.). The party applying for a temporary injunction has the burden of production, which is the burden of offering some evidence that establishes a probable right to recover. See Millwrights Local Union No. 2484 v. Rust Eng'g Co., 433 S.W.2d 683, 685-87 (Tex. 1968); Intercontinental Terminals Co. v. Vopak N. Am., Inc., 354 S.W.3d 887, 891 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, no pet.). If an applicant does not discharge its burden, it is not entitled to such extraordinary relief. See Millwrights, 433 S.W.2d at 685-87; Intercontinental Terminals, 354 S.W.3d at 891.

         The decision to grant or deny a temporary injunction lies in the discretion of the trial court, and the court's ruling is subject to reversal only for an abuse of that discretion. INEOS Grp., 312 S.W.3d at 848. A trial court abuses its discretion in granting or denying a temporary injunction when it misapplies the law to the established facts. Id. We review the evidence submitted to the trial court in the light most favorable to its ruling, drawing all legitimate inferences from the evidence, and deferring to the trial court's resolution of conflicting evidence. Id. Our review is limited to determining whether the trial court abused its discretion; we do not reach the merits of the underlying case. Davis v. Huey, 571 S.W.2d 859, 861-62 (Tex. 1978); INEOS Grp., 312 S.W.3d at 848. When, as in this case, no findings of fact or conclusions of law are filed, the trial court's order must be upheld on any legal theory supported by the record. See, e.g., Intercontinental Terminals, 354 S.W.3d at 898.

         On appeal, True Blue raises several arguments as to why the district court erred by denying its application for a temporary injunction. These arguments primarily address various reasons which True Blue posits the trial court might have relied upon erroneously to justify denying a temporary injunction. True Blue also provides arguments regarding why the justice court's order was incorrect. None of True ...


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