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Merry Homes, Inc. v. Dao

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

September 19, 2017

MERRY HOMES, INC., Appellant
v.
LUC DAO, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 151st District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2009-25771

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Busby, and Jewell.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Tracy Christopher Justice

         In this appeal from a summary judgment in favor of appellee Luc Dao, we address whether Dao's claim for money had and received against appellant Merry Homes, Inc. was barred by limitations. We conclude that Dao timely filed his claim within two years from the date the claim accrued and thus affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         The facts are largely undisputed and well-known to the parties. We thus set forth the following abbreviated statement of facts.

          In June 2005, Chi Hung Luu executed a lease with Merry Homes to operate a night club in Houston. Merry Homes required a deposit of $12, 000. Luu and his friend Dao each paid $6, 000 to secure the lease. Only Luu executed the lease agreement-Dao was not a party to, nor listed as a tenant on, the agreement.

         After Luu discovered that the property could not legally be used as a night club he sued Merry Homes for a declaration that the lease was void and to recover the money he had paid to secure the lease. On February 9, 2009, the trial court declared the lease void and awarded Luu the $6, 000 he paid under the lease. Because Dao was not a party to the lease nor to the declaratory judgment action, the trial court did not award Dao the money he had paid Merry Homes.[1]

         On April 16, 2009, Dao filed this suit against Merry Homes seeking a declaration that the lease was void and a claim for the return of his $6, 000 under money had and received. Merry Homes filed a motion to dismiss Dao's claims. In the motion to dismiss, Merry Homes argued: "[Dao] was not a party to the contract, and therefore has no standing to assert these claims." The trial court agreed in part and signed an interlocutory order dismissing Dao's "claim under the Texas Declaratory Judgment Act only" for lack of standing. Neither party has appealed that ruling.

         Dao moved for summary judgment on his claim for money had and received. Merry Homes did not file its own motion, but in response argued that Dao's claim was barred by a two-year statute of limitations. The trial court applied a four-year statute of limitations and granted Dao's motion, awarding Dao the return of his $6, 000. Merry Homes appealed, arguing a two-year statute applied. We agreed with Merry Homes that a two-year statute of limitations applied, reversed the summary judgment in favor of Dao, and remanded for further proceedings. See Merry Homes, Inc. v. Dao, 359 S.W.3d 881, 884 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, no pet.).

         On remand, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment addressing whether Dao's claim was timely filed within two years of the date his claim accrued. Merry Homes argued that Dao's claim is time-barred because it accrued in June 2005, when Dao paid the money to Merry Homes, but he did not bring suit on his claim until April 2009. Dao conversely argued that the claim did not accrue until the trial court declared the lease void in February 2009, at which time Merry Homes held money that in equity and good conscience belonged to him. Dao further argued that he lacked standing to bring his claim before the lease was declared void and that the statute of limitations was tolled because the viability of his claim depended on the outcome of the case between Luu and Merry Homes. Dao also asserted that collateral and judicial estoppel barred Merry Homes from denying the money belonged to him based on statements made in the Luu lawsuit.

         The trial court granted Dao's second motion and again rendered a final judgment in his favor for $6, 000, plus prejudgment interest, taxable costs, and post-judgment interest. The trial court denied all other relief and this appeal followed.

         Analysis

         Merry Homes brings two issues in its challenge to the trial court's judgment. In its first issue, Merry Homes contends Dao's claim is time-barred because he brought suit more than two years after he paid the $6, 000 deposit to Merry Homes. In its second issue, Merry Homes contends it is neither collaterally nor judicially estopped from arguing that Dao's claim is barred by limitations. We conclude that Dao's claim accrued when the trial court declared the lease void because that is when Merry Homes began holding money that in equity and good conscience belonged to Dao, and he had no standing to challenge the validity of the lease prior to that time. We also conclude that Merry Homes' second issue lacks merit because the doctrines of collateral and judicial estoppel were not asserted to prevent ...


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