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Equipment Performance Management Inc. v. Baker Hughes Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

April 27, 2017

EQUIPMENT PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT, INC., Appellant
v.
BAKER HUGHES, INC. AND BAKER HUGHES OILFIELD OPERATIONS, INC., Appellees

         On Appeal from the 190th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2014-40269

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Kem Thompson Frost Chief Justice.

         A plaintiff seeks to appeal an order in which the trial court granted the defendants' summary-judgment motion and dismissed the plaintiff's claims with prejudice. In the order, the trial court did not actually dispose of the defendants' requests for attorney's fees nor state with unmistakable clarity that the order was final. Concluding that the order is interlocutory and that no statute authorizes an interlocutory appeal from the order, we dismiss this case for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Appellees/defendants Baker Hughes, Inc. and Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc. (collectively, the "Baker-Hughes Parties") hired appellant/plaintiff Equipment Performance Management, Inc. to provide preventative-maintenance services to their pressure-pumping equipment and to perform safety inspections required by the Texas Department of Transportation. According to Equipment Management, the Baker-Hughes Parties hired away the chief of Equipment Management's preventative-maintenance crew in violation of the crew chief's contract with Equipment Management and induced one of Equipment Management's inspectors to start his own company, which the Baker-Hughes Parties then used for their inspections.

         Equipment Management sued the Baker-Hughes Parties alleging tortious interference with contract, participation in breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets, and violations of the Texas Theft Liability Act arising out of the Baker-Hughes Parties' alleged actions. The Baker-Hughes Parties denied liability and sought to recover attorney's fees under Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 134.005(b), which entitles a defendant to recover its reasonable and necessary attorney's fees for successfully defending a claim based on an alleged violation of the Texas Theft Liability Act. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 134.005(b).

         The Baker-Hughes Parties then moved for traditional and no-evidence summary judgment on all of Equipment Management's claims. The trial court granted summary judgment. In moving for summary judgment, the Baker-Hughes Parties had not sought or proved any amount of attorney's fees. And, in granting summary judgment, the trial court did not award any amount of attorney's fees. In its summary-judgment order, the trial court dismissed Equipment Management's claims with prejudice.

         Equipment Management appealed. The day after Equipment Management filed its notice of appeal, the Baker-Hughes Parties moved to modify the summary judgment. In their motion to modify, the Baker-Hughes Parties undertook to prove their attorney's fees and asked the trial court to modify the judgment to include the amount of attorney's fees and costs to which the Baker-Hughes Parties were entitled. The trial court has taken no action on the motion to modify the judgment.

         On appeal, the Baker-Hughes Parties assert that this court lacks jurisdiction over this appeal because the trial court's judgment is interlocutory. Obliged to determine our own jurisdiction, see City of Houston v. Rhule, 417 S.W.3d 440, 442 (Tex. 2013), we consider as a threshold question whether the trial court's judgment is final for purposes of appeal. If it is not, we lack appellate jurisdiction to proceed.

         II. Jurisdictional Analysis

         No statute authorizes an interlocutory appeal in this case, so this court has jurisdiction over this appeal only if the trial court's summary-judgment order is final. See Stary v. DeBord, 967 S.W.2d 352, 352-53 (Tex. 1998) (per curiam). An order issued without a conventional trial on the merits is final for purposes of appeal if it (1) actually disposes of all claims and all parties before the court or (2) states with unmistakable clarity that it is a final judgment. See Lehmann v. Har-Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 192, 200 (Tex. 2001).

         A. The judgment does not actually dispose of all parties and claims or state with unmistakable clarity an intent to do so.

         The trial court did not include any language indicating that its summary-judgment order was final or that the order resolved all claims between and among all parties. Nor did the trial court state with unmistakable clarity that the trial ...


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