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Douglas v. First National Bank of Hughes Springs

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

June 6, 2017

GLORIA DOUGLAS AND CHARLIE DOUGLAS, JR., Appellants
v.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF HUGHES SPRINGS, Appellee

          Submitted: May 10, 2017

         On Appeal from the 5th District Court Cass County, Texas Trial Court No. 15-C-370

          Before Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.

          OPINION

          Bailey C. Moseley Justice

         On May 19, 2010, Gloria Douglas and Charlie Douglas, Jr., secured a loan from First National Bank of Hughes Springs (Bank) to purchase a 2010 Chevrolet automobile. On the same date and in connection with their installment loan agreement with the Bank, the Douglases signed an automatic transfer authorization (ATA) form which permitted the Bank to make automatic withdrawals of $686.10 per month from their joint checking account and apply the sums to their installment loan payment account. Under the terms of the ATA, the Bank was given permission to continue to withdraw sums from the Douglases' checking account until they gave the Bank written notice to stop the withdrawals.

         The Douglases also purchased disability insurance provided by Central States Health & Life Co. of Omaha (Insurance Company), which would pay a maximum monthly disability benefit of $686.10 to the Bank, as the creditor beneficiary, in the event that either one of the Douglases became disabled. It is undisputed that Gloria became disabled, the Insurance Company made payments to the Bank as required by the terms of the disability insurance coverage, the Bank continued to withdraw sums from the Douglases' checking account pursuant to the ATA, and the loan for the 2010 Chevy Automobile was "effectively pa[id] off . . . in 30 months rather than 60 months."[1]

         In response to receiving news from the Bank in May 2013 that their loan was paid in full, the Douglases sued the Bank on July 7, 2015, for violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and breach of an implied contract. In essence, the Douglases claimed that the Bank's continuation of the withdrawal of money from their checking account, even though it was receiving the full amount of the monthly payment on the loan from the Insurance Company, constituted "false, misleading or deceptive" and "unconscionable" actions that resulted in improper conversion of money from their checking account.[2]

         The Bank filed a traditional motion for summary judgment on its affirmative defense that the two-year statute of limitations barred the Douglases' DTPA causes of action. The trial court granted the Bank's motion for summary judgment on the limitations ground, and the Douglases do not argue that the trial court erred in doing so. However, the Bank's summary judgment motion also argued that the Douglases' claim for breach of implied contract was barred by the express terms of the ATA, and the trial court agreed.[3] Thus, in a single issue asserted on appeal, the Douglases argue that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on their claim for breach of an implied contract. Finding no error in the trial court's decision, we affirm the judgment.

         I. Standard of Review

         The grant of a trial court's summary judgment is subject to de novo review by appellate courts. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 215 (Tex. 2003). In making the required review, we deem as true all evidence which is favorable to the nonmovant, we indulge every reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence, and we resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. Valence Operating Co. v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005).

         To be entitled to traditional summary judgment, a movant must establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact so that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); Mann Frankfort Stein & Lipp Advisors, Inc. v. Fielding, 289 S.W.3d 844, 848 (Tex. 2009). Once the movant produces evidence entitling it to summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to present evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact. Walker v. Harris, 924 S.W.2d 375, 377 (Tex. 1996). A defendant who conclusively negates a single essential element of a cause of action or conclusively establishes an affirmative defense is entitled to summary judgment on that claim. Frost Nat'l Bank v. Fernandez, 315 S.W.3d 494, 508-09 (Tex. 2010).

         II. Analysis

         The Douglases argued that the Bank had an implied contractual duty to terminate automatic payments under the installment loan agreement once it started receiving disability benefits as creditor beneficiary. "Generally, a court looks only to the written agreement to determine the obligations of contracting parties." Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. Renaissance Women's Grp., P.A., 121 S.W.3d 742, 747 (Tex. 2003). Thus, "[i]f the parties have expressly stated the terms of their agreement, they have created an express contract and are bound by it to the exclusion of conflicting implied terms."[4] Hiles v. Arnie & Co., P.C., 402 S.W.3d 820, 832 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, pet. denied) (quoting Malallah v. Noble Logistic Servs., Inc., No. 14-08-01030-CV, 2010 WL 343487, at *2 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 2, 2010, pet. denied) (mem. op.); see Emmer v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 668 S.W.2d 487, 490 (Tex. App.- Amarillo 1984, no writ)).

         The summary judgment evidence consisted of the terms of the ATA and the Douglases' responses to the Bank's requests for admissions. The ATA authorized a transfer from the Douglases' checking account to their installment loan payment account in the amount of $686.10 per month beginning on ...


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