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Thomas Oilfield Services, LLC v. Clark

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

May 24, 2017

THOMAS OILFIELD SERVICES, LLC, APPELLANT
v.
ALBERT CLARK, APPELLEE

         Appeal from the 97th District Court of Montague County, Texas (Tr.Ct. No. 2015-0316M-CV)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES T. WORTHEN, CHIEF JUSTICE

         Thomas Oilfield Services, L.L.C. (TOS) appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Albert Clark. TOS presents two issues on appeal. We reverse and remand.

         Background

         Clark was employed by TOS in May 2015. His duties included overseeing TOS's production operations crews. Clark claims that he suffered heat stroke while working for TOS in July 2015, which lead to the onset of seizures. Clark contacted an attorney to pursue filing a workers' compensation incident report. Shortly thereafter, according to Clark, TOS terminated his employment.

         Clark sued TOS for (1) breaching his employment contract, and (2) violating the Texas Labor Code by retaliating against him for retaining counsel to pursue a workers' compensation claim. Clark later moved for summary judgment, claiming entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on both his breach of contract and retaliatory discharge claims. TOS responded to the motion. Clark filed a reply to TOS's response and objected to TOS's summary judgment evidence. Following a hearing, the trial court sustained Clark's objections to TOS's evidence and granted summary judgment for Clark. TOS filed a motion for rehearing and new trial, which the trial court denied. This appeal followed.

         Summary Judgment

         In its first issue, TOS contends the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for Clark and awarding damages and attorney's fees to Clark.

         Standard of Review

         The movant for traditional summary judgment has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); Nixon v. Mr. Prop. Mgmt. Co., 690 S.W.2d 546, 548 (Tex. 1985). When the movant seeks summary judgment on a claim in which he has the burden of proof, he must prove all elements of his cause of action as a matter of law. See Rhone-Poulenc, Inc. v. Steel, 997 S.W.2d 217, 223 (Tex. 1999). Once the movant establishes a right to summary judgment, the nonmovant must respond to the motion and present to the trial court any issues that would preclude summary judgment. See City of Houston v. Clear Creek Basin Auth., 589 S.W.2d 671, 678-79 (Tex. 1979). Except to attack the legal sufficiency of the movant's grounds for summary judgment, the nonmovant must expressly present to the trial court in a written answer or response any reason for avoiding the movant's entitlement to summary judgment. McConnell v. Southside Indep. Sch. Dist, 858 S.W.2d 337, 343 (Tex. 1993).

         We review a trial court's summary judgment ruling de novo. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 215 (Tex. 2003). In doing so, we take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant, resolve all conflicts in the evidence in the non-movants' favor, and "indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor." Steel, 997 S.W.2d at 223; see also Sudan v. Sudan, 199 S.W.3d 291, 292 (Tex. 2006); KPMG Peat Marwick v. Harrison Cnty. Hous. Fin. Corp., 988 S.W.2d 746, 748 (Tex. 1999). A fact issue arises when "reasonable and fair-minded jurors could differ in their conclusions in light of all of the evidence presented." Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Mayes, 236 S.W.3d 754, 755 (Tex. 2007). Conflicting evidence requires resolution by the factfinder, rather than by summary judgment. Karlev. Innovative Direct Media Ltd. Co., 309 S.W.3d 762, 765 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet).

         Breach of Contract Analysis

         On appeal, TOS argues that Clark did not establish all the essential elements of his breach of contract claim as a matter of law. Specifically, TOS argues that Clark's summary judgment evidence is legally insufficient to support the existence of an employment contract because (1) the evidence does not prove the existence of a valid employment ...


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