Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN MANDAMUS
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
T. RODRIGUEZ, Justice
Petroleum Partners, LP (Mesa), has filed a mandamus petition
against the Honorable Mike Swanson, Judge of the 143rd
District Court of Reeves County, Texas. Mesa requests that
the Court direct Respondent to render a final judgment in
cause number 15-04-20996-CVR, styled Mesa Petroleum
Partners, LP v. Baytech LLP, J. Cleo Thompson and James Cleo
Thompson, Jr., LP, and Delaware Basin Resources LLC. We
conditionally grant mandamus relief and direct the trial
court to render final judgment within thirty days.
original proceeding arises from a suit filed by Mesa against
Baytech LLP, J. Cleo Thompson and James Cleo Thompson, Jr.,
LP (collectively JCT), and Delaware Basin Resources LLC
(DBR). Mesa alleged in the pleadings that it entered into a
Participation Agreement (PA) giving Mesa the right to a 15
percent ownership interest in an Area of Mutual Interest
(AMI) known as the Red Bull located in Reeves and Pecos
Counties. According to the pleadings, Mesa executed the PA
and the Red Bull Joint Operating Agreement and paid its
participation fee. Mesa's suit alleges that the operating
company transferred Mesa's 15% interest to Baytech, and
Baytech, in turn, transferred that interest to DBR. The suit
stated claims for breach of contract, fraud, fraudulent
concealment, breaches of fiduciary duties, tortious
interference with contracts, conspiracy, conversion and
trespass. The trial court granted summary judgment on all
claims except for breach of contract, and the case proceeded
to a jury trial which began on October 31, 2016. The court
submitted the case to the jury on November 22, 2016, and the
jury found Baytech and DBR liable for breach of the
Participation Agreement, and found JCT liable for breach of
the Joint Operating Agreement. The jury also found JCT guilty
of gross negligence and willful misconduct. The jury awarded
damages and attorney's fees to Mesa in the total amount
of approximately $145 million.
December 16, 2016, Mesa filed its motion for judgment based
on the jury's verdict, and it attached a proposed final
judgment to the motion. JCT, Baytech, and DBR filed motions
for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and responses to
Mesa's motion for judgment. Mesa also filed responses to
the JNOV motions. On February 27, 2017, the trial court
conducted a hearing which lasted approximately five hours on
all of the post-verdict motions, and it gave the parties
additional time to submit post-hearing briefing. All
post-hearing briefs and written objections were filed by
March 28, 2017. There are two pending cases related to the
underlying case: (1) Mesa Petroleum Partners, LP v. Oxy
USA WTP LP, cause number P-11989-112-CV, pending in the
112th District Court of Pecos County, Texas; and (2) Mesa
Petroleum Partners, LP v. Oxy USA WTP LP, cause number
16-08-21618-CVR, pending in the 143rd District Court of
Reeves County, Texas. Mesa filed these suits against Oxy USA
WTP (Oxy) to clear title to Mesa's Red Bull properties
which Oxy purchased in 2013 and 2016 from DBR, JCT, and
others. Over Mesa's objection, Respondent granted
Oxy's request for a stay of all proceedings in the Reeves
County case. The 112th District Court initially took
Oxy's motion under advisement pending entry of judgment
in the underlying case, but on October 18, 2017, that court
denied Oxy's motion for a stay.
Boone Pickens is the principal of Mesa and he was a key
witness in the underlying case. The mandamus petition relates
that Mr. Pickens is eighty-nine years' of age and in
declining health due to a series of strokes suffered at the
end of trial and the subsequent months. In its letters to the
trial court, Mesa has advised Respondent regarding Mr.
Pickens' health concerns. It has been almost one year
since the jury rendered its verdict, more than eight months
since the post-trial motions hearing, and more than seven
months since the parties submitted their briefs on the
post-verdict motions, but the trial court has not yet
rendered its judgment.
to Render Judgment
sole issue, Mesa argues that it is entitled to mandamus
relief because Respondent has failed to render judgment
within a reasonable time after the trial on the merits was
mandamus relief is appropriate only to correct a clear abuse
of discretion or to compel the performance of a ministerial
duty, and where the relator has no adequate remedy by appeal.
In re Reece, 341 S.W.3d 360, 364 (Tex. 2011)(orig.
proceeding); In re Prudential Insurance Company of
America, 148 S.W.3d 124, 135-36 (Tex. 2004)(orig.
proceeding). The relator bears the burden of demonstrating it
is entitled to mandamus relief. See In re Ford Motor
Company, 165 S.W.3d 315, 317 (Tex. 2005)(orig.
proceeding); Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 837
obtain mandamus relief based on a trial court's failure
to perform a ministerial duty, the relator must show that the
trial court: (1) had a legal duty to perform a
non-discretionary act; (2) was asked to perform that act; and
(3) refused to do so. See O'Connor v. First Court of
Appeals, 837 S.W.2d 94, 97 (Tex. 1992)(orig.
proceeding). The Rules of Civil Procedure require a court to
render a judgment following a jury trial. Tex.R.Civ.P. 300,
301. Where no irreconcilable conflict exists in a jury's
findings, the trial court has a ministerial duty to enter a
judgment on the verdict. Traywick v. Goodrich, 364
S.W.2d 190, 191 (Tex. 1963). A trial court's failure to
proceed to judgment within a reasonable time deprives the
parties of an adequate remedy at law including the right to
accept or appeal the judgment. Hunt Energy Corporation v.
Pirtle, No. 07-96-0257-CV, 1996 WL 671398, at *2
(Tex.App.--Amarillo November 20, 1996, orig. proceeding)(not
designated for publication). Consequently, mandamus relief is
available if a trial court has failed to enter judgment
within a reasonable time. See Texas State Board of
Examiners in Optometry v. Carp, 388 S.W.2d 409, 417
(Tex. 1965)(writ of mandamus will issue to compel trial court
to proceed to judgment); Kissam v. Williamson, 545
S.W.2d 265, 267 (Tex.Civ.App.--Tyler 1976, orig.
proceeding)(compelling trial court to proceed to trial and
judgment). What constitutes a reasonable time depends on the
facts and circumstances of the particular case. In re
Salazar, 134 S.W.3d 357, 358 (Tex.App.--Waco 2003, orig.
to Enter Judgment on ...