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.

Lancaster v. Yves

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

November 16, 2017

DAVID LANCASTER, Appellant
v.
DIANE ST. YVES AND THE LAW OFFICE OF DIANE ST. YVES, P.L.L.C., Appellees

         On Appeal from the 61st District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-07653-A

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Keyes and Caughey.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sherry Radack, Chief Justice

         Appellant, David Lancaster, challenges the trial court's summary judgment in favor of appellees, Diane St. Yves and The Law Firm of Diane St. Yves (collectively, "St. Yves"), in Lancaster's suit against St. Yves for fraud, negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("DTPA").[1] In two issues, Lancaster contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of St. Yves on the ground that Lancaster's claims are barred by res judicata.

         We affirm.

         Background

         A. The Prior Suit

         Lancaster alleges that on September 9, 2009, the 247th District Court of Harris County issued a default protective order (the "2009 protective order") against him, prohibiting him from contacting or committing violence against his then wife, Barbara.[2] In 2011, Lancaster retained St. Yves to represent him in a divorce from Barbara and in criminal contempt proceedings, pertaining to his violations of the 2009 protective order.[3]

         In 2012, the 247th District Court issued an agreed final decree of divorce, dissolving Lancaster's marriage to Barbara. In addition, the 280th District Court of Harris County granted Barbara a second protective order against Lancaster (the "2012 protective order").[4]

         From the record, Lancaster, on January 13, 2013, filed a petition for a bill of review, challenging the 2009 protective order.

         On April 3, 2014, St. Yves moved to withdraw as Lancaster's attorney and filed a petition in intervention in the bill-of-review proceeding, seeking a judgment against Lancaster for unpaid attorney's fees. After moving unsuccessfully to strike the intervention, Lancaster filed an answer. He did not file any counterclaims. The trial court subsequently granted St. Yves's motion to withdraw, but did not rule on St. Yves's petition in intervention for attorney's fees.

         On July 23, 2014, the trial court denied Lancaster's petition for a bill of review (the "bill-of-review order"), and Lancaster appealed the bill-of-review order to this Court.[5] On December 16, 2014, this Court sent Lancaster a notice of intent to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction Lancaster's appeal of the trial court's bill-of-review order because the record showed that St. Yves's claim in her petition in intervention remained outstanding. Lancaster responded that the trial court's bill-of-review order had in fact become final because the trial court had, the day before, signed an order on St. Yves's intervention, disposing of her claims.

         The record showed that on December 15, 2014, the trial court signed an "Order on Intervenor's Petition for Attorney's Fees" (the "order on intervention"), in which it found that St. Yves's fees for representing Lancaster in the prior proceedings were reasonable and necessary, and granted St. Yves a judgment against Lancaster in the amount of $27, 258.56.

         In Lancaster's appeal of the trial court's bill-of-review order, the Court held that the record did not affirmatively show strict compliance with the rules of civil procedure in serving him with Barbara's application underlying the trial court's 2009 protective order.[6] The Court reversed the trial court's bill-of-review order and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with its opinion.[7] Although Lancaster had also argued that after the trial court issued its 2009 protective order, he was globally "subjected to additional due process violations" by various courts and in various orders, including the 2012 protective order and the order on the intervention, [8] he did not specifically challenge on the merits the trial court's order on the intervention, awarding St. Yves a judgment for unpaid attorney's fees. Thus, this Court expressly limited its review to the order Lancaster appealed from, that is, the trial court's bill-of-review order.[9]

         B. The Instant Suit

         In 2016, Lancaster filed the instant new suit, in the 61st District Court of Harris County, against St. Yves for fraud, negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of the DTPA. Lancaster alleged that St. Yves had committed malpractice throughout the course of representing him in the prior proceedings. He further alleged that St. Yves, by filing a petition in intervention seeking payment of her attorney's fees, had "knowingly [taken] an inconsistent position against her own client's interests."

         Specifically, in his fraud claim, Lancaster alleged that St. Yves had submitted invoices to him on which she had falsified her hours worked. He further alleged that St. Yves made false and misleading representations that the actions for which she billed were necessary. In his negligence claim, Lancaster alleged that St. Yves breached her duty to exercise reasonable care in her legal representation of him by failing to adequately review records, research all issues and advise him, and follow his instructions. In his claim for breach of contract, Lancaster alleged that St. Yves breached her fee agreement with him by charging excessive and unconscionable legal fees and failing to "fulfill her promises to provide adequate legal services." In his claim for breach of fiduciary duty, Lancaster alleged that St. Yves breached her duty of candor, loyalty, and integrity, which she owed him by virtue of their attorney-client relationship, by charging him excessive, unconscionable, and unreasonable attorney's fees. Finally, Lancaster alleged that St. Yves violated the DTPA by failing to disclose "information" about his rights; misrepresenting that her services were of a particular standard or quality, or had certain characteristics or benefits; misrepresenting that she was competent and ethical; and "testifying against" his interests. In each of his claims, Lancaster alleged that St. Yves's misrepresentations and breaches of duty proximately caused him to "suffer[] damages." He sought actual and exemplary damages in excess of $1, 000, 000.00 and fee forfeiture.

         St. Yves answered, generally denying the allegations and asserting various affirmative defenses, including that Lancaster's claims are barred by res judicata. St. Yves also filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Lancaster's claims because the evidence conclusively establishes her affirmative defense of res judicata. Specifically, the evidence shows that there is a prior final judgment on the merits, i.e., the trial court's December 15, 2014 order awarding her $27, 258.56 in unpaid attorney's fees; that she and Lancaster were parties to the intervention in the prior ...


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.