Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
IN RE CHARLES CURTIS NOWELL JR., MEDIQ-PRN LIFE SUPPORT SERVICES, INC., HILLENBRAND INDUSTRIES, HILL-ROM HOLDINGS, INC., and HILL-ROM COMPANY, INC.
Submitted on March 8, 2018
Original Proceeding 60th District Court of Jefferson County,
Texas Trial Cause No. B-185, 832
Kreger, Horton, and Johnson, JJ.
CHARLES KREGER JUSTICE
mandamus proceeding filed by Charles Curtis Nowell, Jr.,
Mediq-PRN Life Support Services, Inc., Hillenbrand
Industries, Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc., and Hill-Rom Company,
Inc., Relators, we must decide whether the trial court
clearly abused its discretion by denying a motion to dismiss
for want of prosecution when that motion was filed after the
trial court set the case for disposition on the trial docket.
We conclude Relators have not established that the trial
court committed a clear abuse of discretion for which
Relators lack an adequate remedy by appeal. See
In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d 124,
135-36 (Tex. 2004) (orig. proceeding). Accordingly, we deny
the petition for a writ of mandamus.
Henson sued Relators for personal injuries that Henson
sustained in a January 29, 2008, motor vehicle accident.
Relators filed their original answer in February
2010. Henson's July 2010 supplemental
response to requests for disclosure identified medical
expenses of $22, 363.13 and lost wages of $1, 573.80. In
August 2010, Relators took Henson's deposition and she
supplemented her disclosures to increase her medical expenses
to $22, 431.13. Henson obtained medical records dated as of
March 10, 2010, and she received additional medical records
in July 2010.
January 2017, a newly elected trial judge assumed
responsibility for the court. After Relators' telephone
inquiry regarding the status of the case, the trial court set
the case on the trial docket for April 2018. In January 2018,
Henson disclosed additional medical records that had been
obtained between 2008 and 2011. At that time, Henson
designated her expert witnesses.
January 23, 2018, Relators filed a motion to dismiss for want
of prosecution and alternatively, for a continuance. Counsel
for Relators informed the trial court that the case had never
been on the trial docket. In the hearing on the motion to
dismiss for want of prosecution, Henson's counsel
explained that he joined the law firm after the case was
filed, but he was unaware of the case until it appeared on
the docket. Upon receiving notice of the trial setting
from the court, he immediately provided the medical records
affidavits and designated experts. Henson's counsel added
that he was unaware that the case had ever appeared on a
dismissal docket before that day, and he announced that they
were ready to try the case in February. The trial court
denied the motion to dismiss but granted the motion for
continuance and allowed Henson to be re-deposed. On February
1, 2018, the trial court signed an order denying the motion
to dismiss for want of prosecution and set the case for a
July 2018 trial.
will issue only to correct a clear abuse of discretion for
which the relator has no adequate remedy by appeal. In re
Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d at 135-36. A
trial court abuses its discretion if it fails to analyze or
apply the law correctly because a trial court has no
discretion in determining what the law is or applying the law
to the facts. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840
(Tex. 1992) (orig. proceeding). "The adequacy of an
appellate remedy must be determined by balancing the benefits
of mandamus review against the detriments." In re
Team Rocket, L.P., 256 S.W.3d 257, 262 (Tex. 2008)
(orig. proceeding). "In evaluating benefits and
detriments, we consider whether mandamus will preserve
important substantive and procedural rights from impairment
or loss." Id. "These considerations
implicate both public and private interests."
Prudential, 148 S.W.3d at 136. We consider whether
an irreversible waste of judicial and public resources would
be required if mandamus does not issue. In re Masonite
Corp, 997 S.W.2d 194, 198 (Tex. 1999).
for Want of Prosecution
courts are generally granted considerable discretion when it
comes to managing their dockets. Such discretion, however, is
not absolute. It has long been the case that "a delay of
an unreasonable duration . . ., if not sufficiently
explained, will raise a conclusive presumption of abandonment
of the plaintiff's suit." In re Conner, 458
S.W.3d 532, 534 (Tex. 2015) (quoting Callahan v.
Staples, 161 S.W.2d 489, 491 (Tex. 1942)). "This
presumption justifies the dismissal of a suit under either a
court's inherent authority or Rule 165a of the Texas
Rules of Civil Procedure." Id. (citing
Villarreal v. San Antonio Truck & Equip., 994
S.W.2d 628, 630 (Tex. 1999) (recognizing both common law
source of power and rule based source of power)).
Rules of Judicial Administration provide that district and
statutory county court judges "should, so far as
reasonably possible, ensure" that civil cases in which a
jury has been demanded, other than those arising under the
Family Code, are brought to trial or final disposition within
eighteen months of the appearance date. Tex. R. Jud. Admin.
6.1(b). Henson failed to ...