Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
from the County Court at Law No. 2 of Dallas County, Texas
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
Patman appeals the trial court's order assessing costs
against him after he filed a notice of nonsuit of his claims
against State Farm Lloyds (State Farm). In one issue, Patman
argues that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering
that he pay court costs to State Farm because State Farm
filed its motion seeking reimbursement for court costs after
Patman filed his notice of nonsuit. We affirm.
filed the instant suit against State Farm on March 7, 2014,
alleging State Farm was liable to him for breach of contract,
violations under the Texas Insurance Code, violations of the
Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, fraud, and civil
conspiracy. Following discovery the trial court rendered
partial summary judgment in State Farm's favor on all but
Patman's contract cause of action.
case was set for trial on October 27, 2015, at which time the
parties conferred on certain pretrial matters and argued
pretrial motions. The trial was scheduled to resume on
November 3, 2015.
October 28, 2015, Patman filed a notice of nonsuit without
prejudice. That same day, State Farm filed a motion to enter
an order of nonsuit with prejudice and assess court costs and
expenses against Patman. The trial court conducted a hearing
on State Farm's motion on November 16, 2015. Ultimately,
the trial court ordered that the case be nonsuited without
prejudice and that Patman pay court costs to State Farm in
the amount of $4, 505.25. This appeal followed.
for Court Costs Filed
After Notice of Nonsuit
sole issue, Patman argues that the trial court abused its
discretion by ordering that he pay court costs to State Farm
because State Farm filed its motion seeking reimbursement for
court costs after Patman filed his notice of nonsuit.
of Review and Governing Law
review a trial court's decision to grant sanctions for
abuse of discretion. See Am. Transitional Care Ctrs. of
Tex., Inc. v. Palacious, 46 S.W.3d 873, 878 (Tex. 2001).
The test for abuse of discretion is whether the court acted
without reference to any guiding rules and principles.
See Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d
238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985).
any time before the plaintiff has introduced all of his
evidence other than rebuttal evidence, the plaintiff may . .
. take a nonsuit, which shall be entered in the minutes.
Notice of the . . . nonsuit shall be served . . . on any
party who has answered or who has been served with process
without necessity of court order." Tex.R.Civ.P. 162. A
party has an absolute right to file a nonsuit, and a trial
court is without discretion to refuse an order dismissing a
case because of a nonsuit unless collateral matters remain.
Travelers Ins. Co. v. Joachim, 315 S.W.3d 860, 862
(Tex. 2010); see Villafani v. Trejo, 251 S.W.3d 466,
468-69 (Tex. 2008); In re Bennett, 960 S.W.2d 35, 38
(Tex. 1997); Hooks v. Fourth Court of Appeals, 808
S.W.2d 56, 59 (Tex. 1991). A nonsuit "extinguishes a
case or controversy from 'the moment the motion is
filed' or an oral motion is made in open court; the only
requirement is 'the mere filing of the motion with the
clerk of the court.'" Joachim, 315 S.W.3d
at 862; Univ. of Tex. Med. Branch at Galveston v. Estate
of Blackmon ex rel. Shultz, 195 S.W.3d 98, 100 (Tex.
2006). It renders the merits of the nonsuited case moot.
See Villafani, 251 S.W.3d at 469 ("One unique
effect of a nonsuit is that it can vitiate certain
interlocutory orders, rendering them moot and
unappealable."); Shultz, 195 S.W.3d at 101
("Although [Rule 162] permits motions for costs,
attorney's fees, and sanctions to remain viable in the
trial court, it does not forestall the nonsuit's effect
of rendering the merits of the case moot."); Gen.
Land Office v. OXY U.S.A., Inc., 789 S.W.2d 569, 571
of Motion ...