Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
Carlos A. GARCIA, Appellant
SCHLUMBERGER TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION, Appellee
the 49th Judicial District Court, Webb County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016CVT001478-D1 Honorable Jose A. Lopez, Judge
Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice, Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice
Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice.
C. Martinez, Justice
A. Garcia appeals a no evidence summary judgment granted in
favor of Schlumberger Technology Corporation on Garcia's
false imprisonment claim. Garcia contends Schlumberger had
the burden of proof on the third element of his claim;
therefore, the trial court erred in granting a no evidence
motion for summary judgment. Garcia also contends the trial
court erred in denying his request for sanctions against
Schlumberger for filing a baseless no-evidence motion. We
affirm the trial court's judgment.
was employed by Schlumberger as a mechanic. Schlumberger
provided Garcia with a backpack. When Garcia exchanged his
old backpack for a new backpack, a co-worker found a plastic
bag containing white powder in the old backpack and called
the police. Although Garcia denied any knowledge of the
plastic bag or the powder, he was arrested and taken to jail.
The charges against Garcia were dropped after the white
powder was tested and determined not to be a controlled
substance. Garcia then sued Schlumberger for false
months after Garcia filed his lawsuit, Schlumberger filed a
no evidence motion for summary judgment challenging all three
elements of Garcia's false imprisonment claim. Rather
than filing a response to Schlumberger's motion, Garcia
filed a motion for sanctions, asserting Schlumberger's
motion was groundless "because the law does not permit a
party who has an evidentiary burden at trial to file a no
evidence motion." Specifically, Garcia alleged
Schlumberger had the burden to prove that his arrest was
lawful. After a hearing, the trial court granted
Schlumberger's no evidence motion for summary judgment
and denied Garcia's motion for sanctions. Garcia appeals.
review a trial court's order granting summary judgment de
novo." Cmty. Health Sys. Prof'l Servs. Corp. v.
Hansen, 525 S.W.3d 671, 680 (Tex. 2017). "A motion
for summary judgment must be granted if: (1) the moving party
asserts that there is no evidence of one or more specified
elements of a claim or defense on which the adverse party
would have the burden of proof at trial; and (2) the
respondent [fails to produce more than a scintilla of]
summary judgment evidence raising a genuine issue of material
fact on those elements." Sudan v. Sudan, 199
S.W.3d 291, 292 (Tex. 2006); see also Medistar Corp. v.
Schmidt, 267 S.W.3d 150, 157 (Tex. App.-San Antonio
2008, pet. denied).
essential elements of a cause of action for false
imprisonment are: (1) willful detention; (2) without consent;
and (3) without authority of law." Sears, Roebuck
& Co. v. Castillo, 693 S.W.2d 374, 375 (Tex. 1985).
Schlumberger's motion asserted there was no evidence of
any of these elements.
contends the trial court erred in granting the no evidence
motion for summary judgment in the instant case because
Schlumberger had the burden to prove the third element of his
false imprisonment claim. Garcia is correct that a no evidence
motion for summary judgment is appropriate only "when
the party without the burden of proof moves for summary
judgment on the basis that the party with the burden of proof
at trial cannot produce legally sufficient evidence to
support its theory of liability." La Tier v. Compaq
Computer Corp., 123 S.W.3d 557, 561 (Tex. App.-San
Antonio 2003, no pet.). Garcia is incorrect, however, in his
assertion that Schlumberger had the burden to prove the third
element of his false imprisonment claim.
support of his argument, Garcia primarily relies on
Castillo v. Canavati, 152 S.W.2d 785 (Tex. Civ.
App.-San Antonio 1941, writ ref'd w.o.m.), and Hicks
v. Matthews, 261 S.W.2d 207 (Tex. Civ. App.-Beaumont
1953), rev'd, 266 S.W.2d 846 (Tex. 1954). Both
of the cases Garcia cites pre-date the Texas Supreme
Court's decision in Sears, Roebuck & Co. v.
Castillo, 693 S.W.2d 374 (Tex. 1985). In that decision,
the Texas Supreme Court stated, "The plaintiff must
prove the absence of authority in order to establish the
third element of a false imprisonment cause of action."
Id. at 376. This court has also recognized that the
plaintiff bears the burden "to prove all three elements
including the absence of authority." Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc. v. Odem, 929 S.W.2d 513, 519 (Tex. App.-San
Antonio 1996, writ denied); see also Carr v. H.E. Butt
Grocery Co., No. 03-07-00149-CV, 2009 WL 3230834, at *4
(Tex. App.-Austin Oct. 7, 2009, no pet.) (mem. op.)
(asserting plaintiff must prove all three elements);
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Cockrell, 61 S.W.3d 774,
777 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2001, no pet.) (recognizing
same burden); Raiford v. May Dept. Stores Co., 2
S.W.3d 527, 533 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1999, no
pet.) (recognizing same burden). Because Garcia had the
burden of proof on all three elements of his claim and failed
to produce any evidence in response to Schlumberger's
motion, the trial court did not err in granting
Schlumberger's no evidence motion for summary judgment or
in denying Garcia's motion for sanctions.
trial court's ...