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Hunt v. Airline House, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

September 7, 2017


         On Appeal from the 151st District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2015-66079

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Jamison and Donovan.



         In six issues, appellant Stanley Hunt contends the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of appellees Airline House, Inc., and Kerry Van Allen on his claims for (1) breach of contract; (2) unlawful lockout; (3) retaliation; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) defamation; and (6) declaratory judgment. We affirm.


         Appellant is a registered sex offender. As a condition of his parole, appellant was required to wear an ankle monitor and reside in a transitional housing facility, commonly known as a halfway house.

         Kerry Van Allen is the Executive Director of Airline House, Inc., a private halfway house, that contracts with the Pardons and Parole Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (the Department) to provide temporary residential housing for parolees. The record contains a Householder Memorandum of Agreement between Airline House and the Department. Also in the record is a form provided by the Department titled "Sex Offender Caseload Collateral Contact Information." The first paragraph is initialed by Van Allen and states, "I agree I will not withhold information from the parole officer concerning the offender's behavior."

         Appellant applied to Airline House. The letter accompanying his application states, "I am seeking the approval of your transitional housing facility for placement in your program upon my release from prison. . . . Please find enclosed my application, along with my payment . . . to cover costs of reserving me a bed." Airline House responded with a letter of acceptance, stating, "We have a bed available for you!" The letter informed appellant of the rules for residents. Letters of residency, from September 25, 2013, to November 15, 2013, provide appellant was a resident beginning on September 20, 2013. The letters stated, "We are a transitional living facility."

         Appellant resided at Airline House until December 9, 2013, when he was informed that he was required to vacate the premises by 5:00 p.m. that day. On November 4, 2015, appellant filed suit against Van Allen and Airline House for breach of contract, unlawful lockout, retaliation by a landlord against a residential tenant, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. Appellant contended he was asked to vacate Airline House because Van Allen believed that appellant had reported a bed bug infestation to the City of Houston. Appellant pled that on July 3, 2014, appellant provided appellees of a "notice of claim" and Van Allen knowingly then made false allegations to appellant's supervising parole officer that appellant had failed to attend the requisite Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous ("AA/NA") meetings.

         Appellant moved for partial summary judgment on January 4, 2015, seeking a declaration that the agreement to provide him a bed constituted a lease. On February 5, 2016, appellees filed a traditional and no-evidence motion for summary judgment. On April 12, 2016, the trial court denied appellant's motion for partial summary judgment. Subsequently, on May 11, 2016, the trial court granted appellees' motion for final summary judgment and dismissed appellant's claims with prejudice. From that judgment, appellant brings this appeal.

         Standard of Review

         We review de novo the trial court's order granting summary judgment. Ferguson v. Bldg. Materials Corp. of Am., 295 S.W.3d 642, 644 (Tex. 2009) (per curiam); Wyly v. Integrity Ins. Sols., 502 S.W.3d 901, 904 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet.). Where a trial court's order granting summary judgment does not specify the grounds relied upon, summary judgment will be affirmed if any of the grounds are meritorious. FM Props. Operating Co., v. City of Austin, 22 S.W.3d 868, 872 (Tex. 2000).

         We consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, and indulge reasonable inferences and resolve all doubts in its favor. See City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 824 (Tex. 2005); Wyly, 502 S.W.3d at 904. "We credit evidence favorable to the non-movant if reasonable fact finders could and disregard contrary evidence unless reasonable fact finders could not." Wyly, 502 S.W.3d at 904.

         When both no-evidence and traditional grounds for summary judgment are asserted, we first review the trial court's order under the no-evidence standard. PAS, Inc. v. Engel, 350 S.W.3d 602, 607 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2011, no pet.). To prevail on a no-evidence summary judgment, the movant must allege that no evidence exists to support one or more essential elements of a claim for which the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(i); Kane v. Cameron Int'l Corp., 331 S.W.3d 145, 147 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2011, no pet.). A no-evidence motion may not be conclusory, but must instead give fair notice to the non-movant as to the specific element of the non-movant's claim that is being challenged. See Timpte Indus., Inc. v. Gish, 286 S.W.3d 306, 310-11 (Tex. 2009). The non-movant must then present evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact on the challenged elements. Kane, 331 S.W.3d at 147. A fact issue exists where there is more than a scintilla of probative evidence. See Buck v. Palmer, 381 S.W.3d 525, 527 (Tex. 2012) (per curiam). More than a scintilla of evidence exists if the evidence rises to a level that would ...

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