Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mission Wrecker Service, S.A., Inc. v. Assured Towing, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

August 2, 2017

MISSION WRECKER SERVICE, S.A., INC., Alanis Wrecker Service, Alanis Wrecker Service, Inc., Alejandro L. Alanis, Eric Wilhite, and Jim Champion, Appellants
v.
ASSURED TOWING, INC., Appellee

         From the 224th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-CI-18598 Honorable Gloria Saldaña, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Marialyn Barnard, Justice.

         REVERSED AND REMANDED

         Appellants Mission Wrecker Service, S.A., Inc., Alanis Wrecker Service, Alanis Wrecker Service, Inc., Alejandro L. Alanis, Eric Wilhite, and Jim Champion appeal the trial court's order denying their motions to dismiss filed pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act also known as the anti-SLAPP statute. Appellants contend the trial court erred in denying their motions because the claims asserted by appellee Assured Towing, Inc. against them were based on, related to, or were in response to the Appellants' exercise of the right of free speech or the right to petition.

         Appellants further contend Assured Towing failed to establish by clear and specific evidence a prima facie case for each essential element of its claims or, alternatively, the Appellants established by a preponderance of the evidence each essential element of their justification defense. We reverse the trial court's order, dismiss Assured Towing's claims against the Appellants, [1] and remand the cause for further proceedings.

         Background

         Because both the trial court and this court are required to consider the pleadings and evidence in the light most favorable to Assured Towing, the following summarizes facts from Assured Towing's pleadings. See Watson v. Hardman, 497 S.W.3d 601, 609 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2016, no pet.); Hicks v. Group & Pension Administrators, Inc., 473 S.W.3d 518, 526 (Tex. App.- Corpus Christi 2015, no pet.); Schlumberger Ltd. v. Rutherford, 472 S.W.3d 881, 892 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2015, no pet.); Serafine v. Blunt, 466 S.W.3d 352, 369 n.28 (Tex. App.- Austin 2015, no pet.); see also Rio Grande H2O Guardian v. Robert Muller Family P'ship Ltd., No. 04-13-00441-CV, 2014 WL 309776, at *3 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Jan. 29, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.) (noting "[u]nlike other types of cases where pleadings are not considered evidence, section 27.006 . . . expressly provides" that "we may consider the pleadings as evidence").

         Assured Towing and the City of San Antonio were parties to a Municipal Wrecker Services Agreement pursuant to which Assured Towing provided towing services for the City. After Assured Towing sought a rate review pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Assured Towing began receiving complaints from the City; however, Assured Towing continued providing services under the agreement.

         Under the terms of its agreement with the City, Assured Towing was required to have workers' compensation coverage for its employees. To satisfy this requirement, Assured Towing contracted with Unique Staff Leasing III, Ltd. to provide employee payroll services, including the provision of the required workers' compensation coverage.

         Unique Staff subsequently sued Assured Towing on a past debt after Unique Staff's president was informed by Mike Slater and Jim Champion that the City intended to suspend its agreement with Assured Towing. Slater was the broker who referred Assured Towing to Unique Staff and who received a commission on the payments Assured Towing made to Unique Staff. Slater learned Assured Towing's agreement with the City was in jeopardy from Eric Wilhite during a meeting with Wilhite and Alejandro L. Alanis. Wilhite informed Slater that a City employee informed him that Assured Towing's agreement with the City was likely to be suspended due to nonperformance. Both Wilhite and Alanis are associated with Alanis Wrecker Service. Champion is an employee of Mission Wrecker Service, S.A., Inc. Slater or Champion also provided Unique Staff with the name of the attorney who represented Unique Staff in its lawsuit against Assured Towing.

         In addition to suing Assured Towing, Unique Staff also retroactively terminated its contract with Assured Towing, immediately eliminating its workers' compensation coverage. Assured Towing was current with its payment obligations under the contract but was in arrears on an agreement the parties had entered into requiring Assured Towing to retire a past debt it owed to Unique Staff.

         In its lawsuit, Unique Staff sought and obtained a temporary restraining order requiring the City to deposit all payments made to Assured Towing under the terms of their agreement into the registry of the court. Champion obtained a copy of the TRO and delivered it to the City. Around the same time, a City employee demanded that Assured Towing provide the City with proof of its workers' compensation coverage. When Assured Towing was unable to provide proof, the City suspended its agreement with Assured Towing. While the agreement was suspended, Alanis Wrecker Service provided the towing services Assured Towing would otherwise have provided until Assured Towing provided proof of coverage to the City and the agreement was reinstated.[2]

         Assured Towing sued the Appellants for tortious interference with its contracts with Unique Staff and the City and for conspiracy. As previously noted, the Appellants filed motions to dismiss pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act. Approximately fifteen minutes before the hearing scheduled on the motions, Assured Towing filed a response to which it attached additional evidence. At the hearing, the Appellants objected to the evidence attached to the response as being untimely and inadmissible. The trial court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.