Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the County Court at Law No. 4 of Hidalgo County,
Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Benavides and Longoria
M. BENAVIDES, JUSTICE
issue, appellant Edna Puente challenges the trial court's
denial of her bill of review. At the trial court, Puente
filed a bill of review in response to an order terminating
her parental rights to her son and a subsequent order of
adoption by the appellees, Gertrudis and James Little
(collectively the Littles). We affirm.
case stems out of a voluntary relinquishment of parental
rights and subsequent adoption. On October 27, 2015, Puente
executed a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights
regarding her son, S.C.T. On December 16, 2015, the trial court
granted an adoption of S.C.T. to the Littles.
January 26, 2016, Puente filed suit challenging the voluntary
relinquishment and adoption through a bill of review. A
hearing on Puente's bill of review was conducted on June
8, 2016, and the trial court entered findings of fact and
conclusions of law and denied Puente's bill of review on
June 13, 2016. Her motion for new trial was overruled by
operation of law, and this appeal followed.
Bill of Review
sole issue, Puente challenges the trial court's denial of
her bill of review.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
of review is an independent action to set aside a judgment
that is no longer appealable or subject to challenge by a
motion for new trial. Wembley Inv. Co. v. Herrera,
11 S.W.3d 924, 926-27 (Tex. 1999). Although it is an
equitable proceeding, the fact that an injustice has occurred
is not sufficient to justify relief by bill of review.
Id. at 927. Generally, bill of review relief is
available only if a party has exercised due diligence in
pursuing all adequate legal remedies against a former
judgment, and through no fault of its own, has been prevented
from making a meritorious claim or defense by the fraud,
accident, or wrongful act of the opposing party. Id.
reviewing the granting or denial of a bill of review, every
presumption is indulged in favor of the court's ruling,
which will not be disturbed unless it is affirmatively shown
that there was an abuse of discretion. Barnes v.
Deadrick, 464 S.W.3d 48, 53 (Tex. App.- Houston 2015, no
pet.). The trial court may be reversed for abusing its
discretion only if it has acted in an unreasonable or
arbitrary manner or without reference to any guiding rules
and principles. Id.
of review complainant must prove three elements: (1) a
meritorious defense to the cause of action alleged to support
the judgment, or a meritorious claim, (2) which he or she was
prevented from making by the fraud, accident, or wrongful act
of the opposing party or official mistake, and (3) unmixed
with the fault or negligence of the complainant. Jones v.
Tex. Dep't. of Protective & Regulatory Serv., 85
S.W.3d 482, 487 (Tex. App.-Austin 2002, pet ref'd.).
procedure for conducting a bill of review proceeding is set
out in Baker v. Goldsmith,582 S.W.2d 404 (Tex.
1979). First, the bill of review complainant must file a
petition alleging factually and with particularity the three
elements of a bill of review. Id. at 408. The
complainant must then present, as a pretrial matter,
prima facie proof to support the meritorious defense
alleged in the petition. Id. The only relevant
inquiry at this preliminary stage is whether (1) the
complainant's defense is barred as a matter of law and
(2) the complainant will be entitled to judgment on retrial
if no evidence to the contrary is offered. Id. at
408-09. This is a question of law for the court. Id.
at 409. In making its determination, the district court may
consider discovery documents, affidavits, and such other
evidence that the court admits under its discretion.
Id. The bill of review defendant may also present
proof, but is limited to showing that the meritorious defense
is barred as a matter of law; any factual questions arising
out of factual ...