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Saulnier v. Haase

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

April 20, 2017






         I. Introduction

         In three issues, Appellant Vicki Saulnier appeals an order imposing sanctions against her pursuant to rule of civil procedure 13. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 13. Because the order plainly fails to comply with rule 13's good cause particularity requirement, we must reverse and remand.

         II. Background

         Saratoga is a residential community located in Denton County, adjacent to Lewisville Lake. When Saulnier initiated the underlying litigation in March 2014, Saratoga was governed by a First Amended and Restated Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs). Among other things, the CCRs contained provisions applicable to the Saratoga Property Owners Association, Inc. (the SPOA), created an Architectural Control Committee (ACC), and permitted the creation and implementation of Design Guidelines. The SPOA, which acted by and through a Board of Directors (the Board), was responsible for applying and enforcing the CCRs, the ACC was responsible for approving proposed construction plans, and the Design Guidelines were intended to be "applicable to all construction activities within" Saratoga.

         Saulnier lives in Saratoga and served as an officer on the Board from 2009 through 2012. She was the Board's president when it adopted Design Guidelines in 2012. In March 2014, the Board's members were Appellees Danita Haase, Greg Collins, Lourinda Willey, Richard Nygren, and Scott Brown, all of whom also resided in Saratoga.

         Nate Newman and Jennifer Bynum owned the property adjacent to Saulnier's property, and Marilyn League owned the property adjacent to Newman's and Bynum's property. The properties abut Corps of Engineers' property.

         In early March 2014, Newman and Bynum requested permission from the Board to construct an eight-foot-high privacy fence between their property and League's property. Newman and Bynum had submitted a similar request in 2012, when Saulnier was the Board's president, but the request was denied. Saulnier objected to Newman's and Bynum's request, but the Board approved it, concluding that several provisions contained in the Design Guidelines (which prohibited privacy fencing over six feet tall and on lots abutting Corps of Engineers' property) conflicted with the CCRs (which permitted privacy fences) and were therefore unenforceable. Newman and Bynum constructed the fence.

         Saulnier quickly sued the SPOA, Newman and Bynum, and the members of the Board in their individual capacities for breach of contract.[2] Regarding the Board members, Saulnier alleged that they had breached the CCRs and the Design Guidelines by approving Newman's and Bynum's fence because no plans were submitted to the ACC for approval, the ACC did not approve any plans, the fence was over six feet tall, and the fence was located on property that abutted Corps of Engineers' property.

         The Board members answered, filed a counterclaim for breach of the CCRs, filed a motion to dismiss, and moved for sanctions. After amending their answers several times, and reasserting their motions to dismiss and for sanctions, the Board members filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they were not liable in their individual capacities for an action that they had taken in their official capacities as members of the Board-approving the Newman and Bynum fence request. The Board members referenced business organizations code section 22.221(b)[3] and property code section 202.004(a).[4]

         In addition to responding to the motion for summary judgment, Saulnier filed a second-amended petition in which she added claims against the Board members for (1) violating property code section 202.004(a), (2) violating business organizations code section 22.221(a)‒(b), and (3) a declaration that she had not breached the CCRs. Saulnier also added a section to her petition entitled, "The Board's Desire and Motivation to Harm Plaintiff, " which set out a nineteen-point "laundry list" of allegations against the Board that largely had nothing to do with the Newman and Bynum fence request. Saulnier repeated the laundry list in several other pleadings.

         In October 2014, the trial court granted the Board members summary judgment on Saulnier's breach-of-contract claim. After the Board members nonsuited their contract claim against Saulnier and amended their answer, once again requesting sanctions, Saulnier nonsuited her claims against them for violating the property code and the business organizations code. The same day that Saulnier filed her third-amended petition-which alleged claims for breach of contract only to preserve her right to appeal, [5] violation of the property and business organizations codes against only the SPOA, and declaratory relief-the trial court granted summary judgment for the Board members on Saulnier's request for declaratory relief, her only ...

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