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Parker v. United-Bilt Homes, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

December 13, 2017

SHERRY PARKER, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED-BILT HOMES, LLC, APPELLEE

         Appeal from the 402nd District Court of Wood County, Texas (Tr.Ct. No. 2016-236)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Brian Hoyle Justice

         Sherry Parker appeals the trial court's judgment confirming an arbitration award in favor of United-Bilt Homes, LLC. She presents one issue on appeal. We affirm.

         Background

         On July 23, 2010, Sherry and William Parker entered into a Home Building Agreement in which United-Bilt agreed to construct a home on the Parkers' land. The parties also executed a Retail Installment Contract and a Builder's and Mechanic's Lien Contract. The Parkers ceased making payments on the contract after December 5, 2011. Due to the non-payment, United-Bilt initiated foreclosure proceedings and scheduled a foreclosure sale for October 2, 2012.

         William filed suit in a Wood County district court to enjoin the foreclosure. United-Bilt removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The federal court ordered the parties to proceed to mediation and arbitration. United-Bilt filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association requesting relief against both William and Sherry. The parties subsequently attended an unsuccessful mediation, after which arbitration proceedings occurred. The arbitrator ruled in favor of United-Bilt on September 30, 2014. The arbitration award granted United-Bilt $125, 310.29 in damages, accruing interest at the rate of $25.48 per day, along with arbitration fees and costs, and allowed United-Bilt to foreclose after an additional thirty days. William asked the federal court to set aside the arbitration award and United-Bilt asked that it be confirmed. The federal court confirmed the award, and William filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

         When the Parkers failed to comply with the arbitration award, United-Bilt scheduled another foreclosure sale for September 1, 2015. In response, William claimed that he had a potential buyer for his property and asked that (1) he receive an additional forty-four days to conduct the sale; and (2) United-Bilt agree to a reduced payoff amount. Thereafter, United-Bilt agreed to accept payment of $125, 000, and the parties agreed to sign the agreement on the date of the scheduled foreclosure sale. Pursuant to this settlement and release agreement, the Parkers were to dismiss the federal lawsuit within ten days, dismiss the appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and pay the $125, 000 to United-Bilt within forty-four days.

         After the Parkers failed to make payment under the settlement and release agreement, United-Bilt scheduled a foreclosure sale for April 5, 2016. Sherry then filed suit in Wood County seeking a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, permanent injunction, and declaratory judgment. United-Bilt filed a counterclaim for confirmation of the arbitration award. At a bench trial, the trial court found that "the Parkers failed to take any of the action required of them by the [settlement] agreement and I deny the relief requested by the Plaintiffs and find for the Defendant, that they can go forward on the foreclosure." The trial court signed an order that confirmed the arbitration award, adopted the arbitrator's findings and judgment, rendered judgment in favor of United-Bilt, authorized United-Bilt to proceed with foreclosure, and denied Sherry's requested relief. This appeal followed.

         Confirmation of Arbitration Award

         In her sole issue, Sherry contends the trial court erred in finding the settlement and release agreement was a valid contract. She argues that she was not a proper party to the settlement agreement, lacked the capacity to enter into the agreement, and signed the agreement as a result of undue influence. Therefore, Sherry maintains that the trial court erroneously rendered a verdict in favor of United-Bilt.

         Analysis

         On appeal, Sherry maintains that the trial court erred by determining the validity of the post-arbitration settlement agreement. However, the trial court's judgment makes no mention of the settlement and release agreement. Although the trial court verbally found that the Parkers failed to comply with the settlement agreement, the written judgment grants United-Bilt relief on its counterclaim for confirmation of the arbitration award. A trial court's written judgment prevails over oral pronouncements made at trial. See Seasha Pools, Inc. v. Hardister, 391 S.W.3d 635, 640 (Tex. App.-Austin 2012, no pet.). Thus, the judgment reflects the trial court's confirmation of the arbitration award, not enforcement of the settlement agreement. Accordingly, whether Sherry was a proper party to the settlement agreement, possessed the capacity to enter the agreement, or was unduly influenced into signing the agreement are not questions necessary to final disposition of this appeal.[1] See Tex. R. App. P. 47.1.

         To the extent Sherry's argument may be construed as encompassing a challenge to the trial court's confirmation of the arbitration award, review of an arbitration award is extraordinarily narrow. Patel v. Moin, No. 14-15-00851-CV, 2016 WL 4254016, at *2 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 11, 2016, pet. denied) (mem. op.) (Texas Arbitration Act); Amoco D.T. Co. v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., 343 S.W.3d 837, 844 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2011, pet. denied) (Federal Arbitration Act). All reasonable preferences are indulged in favor of the award. Patel, 2016 WL 4254016, at *3; Amoco D.T., 343 S.W.3d at 841. A party ...


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