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Estate of Crawford

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

November 9, 2017

ESTATE OF DEBORAH TAYLOR CRAWFORD, DECEASED

         On Appeal from the Probate Court No. 2 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 426447

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Boyce and Jewell.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         This is an appeal from a judgment following a bench trial in a will contest. In 2013, Judy Taylor, the independent executrix of the Estate of Deborah Taylor Crawford, filed an application to probate the will of Deborah Taylor Crawford. Appellant, Jimmy Crawford, filed a contest to the decedent's will, arguing that a previous valid will existed.

         On May 22, 2017, at the end of the first day of testimony in the bench trial, the parties, through counsel, put the following agreement into the record:

[Appellee's counsel]: We have agreed that both parties will relinquish any claim for good-faith finding and that would enable them to recover attorney's fees. In consideration, the will contestant has agreed not to appeal this decision -
[Appellant's counsel]: Yes.
[Appellee's counsel]: - and has agreed to relinquish any other claim he might have against any parties, the executor or anyone else for any kind of a bad-faith finding.
THE COURT: Okay. Do you agree to that?
[Appellant's counsel]: Yes, Your Honor.

         On May 30, 2017, the trial court signed a final judgment finding the will submitted by Judy Taylor is valid and enforceable, and denying appellant's contest. The judgment contains a paragraph noting that, "Pursuant to the agreement of the parties read into the Court record on May 22, 2017, Defendant/Will Contestant Jimmy Crawford is prohibited from appealing this Judgment regarding the Court's finding of an enforceable Will and is further prohibited from asserting any claims or actions against Judy Taylor, Lauren Crawford, Adam Crawford and/or Heath Crawford that arise or might arise from the filing and probating of the Will by the Executrix, Judy Taylor." Appellant filed a notice of appeal from the May 30, 2017 judgment.

         On October 3, 2017, this court issued an order abating this appeal for 60 days to allow the parties an opportunity to mediate the dispute. On October 9, 2017, appellee filed a motion to dismiss the appeal and an objection to mediation.

         Appellant filed a response to appellee's motion in which appellant argues (1) appellee does not have standing due to a typographical error in the judgment; (2) appellant was denied the right to a jury trial; and (3) the agreement is not valid because appellant fired his lawyer the day after the agreement was read into the court record. Appellant's response does not demonstrate that appellee's motion to dismiss lacks merit. With regard to the alleged typographical error, it appears from the clerk's record that the trial court cause number originally typed on the judgment was 426447-401. The "-401" portion of the cause number was manually crossed out. The correct trial court cause number is 426447, which is what the judgment reflects. As to appellant's complaint that he was denied a jury trial, the record contains an agreement under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 11 in which appellant waived his right to a jury trial. The agreement reflects that appellant, "requests that his jury trial be removed from the jury docket set for May 22, 2017 and be set for a bench trial on the same day."

         With regard to the validity of the agreement in which appellant waived his right to appeal, appellant filed a motion for new trial in which he alleged that the agreement "was not what was presented by" appellee's attorney. Appellant argued the agreement is invalid because it was not in writing and he fired his attorney the next day. At the hearing on the motion for new ...


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