Appeal from the 412th District Court Brazoria County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 76077-CV.
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Boyce and
William J. Boyce Justice
Ebony Harris and Rochelle Wiley challenge the trial
court's grant of summary judgment in favor of appellee
Graham Bell based on appellants' failure to exercise due
diligence in procuring citation and effecting service of
process on Bell before the statute of limitations expired. We
and Bell were in a car accident on June 9, 2012, in Brazoria
County, Texas. The parties agree and we conclude that
appellants' claims arising from the accident accrued on
the date of the accident and were subject to a two-year
statute of limitations. See Tex. Civ. Prac. &
Rem. Code Ann. § 16.003(a) (Vernon 2017). The
limitations deadline for appellants' claims was June 9,
2014. See id.
filed suit against Bell on February 25, 2014, asserting
negligence claims arising from the June 2012 car accident.
attorney retained private investigator Jon Manning to assist
with serving process on Bell in June 2014. According to
Manning's affidavit, he "first received information
on Defendant Graham Bell from [appellants' attorney] June
3, 2014." Appellants' attorney informed Manning that
Bell resided in Kemah, Texas. Manning made five attempts to
verify Bell's Kemah address in June 2014, all of which
trial court issued a citation for Bell on June 18, 2014. The
citation was returned unserved on June 26, 2014.
to his affidavit, Manning continued his efforts to verify
Bell's Kemah address and made two or three visits to the
Kemah address each month from July 2014 through July
2015. Manning's affidavit states that all of
his visits to Bell's Kemah address were unsuccessful.
Based on his research, Manning concluded that Bell resided at
the Kemah address or in London.
trial court issued a notice of intent to dismiss
appellants' suit on November 25, 2014, citing
appellants' failure to effect service of process on Bell.
Appellants filed a motion to retain, asserting that their
attempts to serve Bell were unsuccessful because Bell
"has been out of the country and his local address is in
a gated community." The trial court signed an order
retaining appellants' case on January 15, 2015.
attorney states in his affidavit that, in January 2015, it
was his understanding that Bell had "multiple
address[es], " one of which was in London, England.
Appellants' attorney requested service abroad through the
United States Department of Justice.
filed their first amended petition in April 2015 and asserted
a claim against Tina Bell, Bell's wife, for negligent
entrustment. Service was effected and Tina filed her answer
in May 2015. Tina filed a motion for partial summary judgment
asserting that appellants' suit against her was barred by
the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court signed
an order granting Tina's summary judgment motion in
trial court issued a second citation for Bell on August 13,
2015. Service on Bell was effected on August 25, 2015. Bell
filed an answer to appellants' petition.
case was dismissed for want of prosecution on January 4,
2016. Appellants filed a motion to reinstate, which the trial