Appeal from the 344th District Court Chambers County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. CV-26248
consists of Justices Bland, Lloyd, and Caughey.
Mersch appeals the dismissal of her counterclaim for
declaratory relief against the Texas Health and Human
Services Commission (HHSC), as the guardian of John Stout.
Because it is no longer John Stout's guardian and Stout
is deceased, HHSC has moved to dismiss the appeal as moot. We
grant the motion and dismiss the appeal.
predecessor, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability
Services (DADS), was appointed to be the permanent guardian
of the person and estate of John Stout. The guardianship
proceeding was styled In the Matter of the Guardianship
of John Stout, cause number CV-25849 and was pending in
the 344th Judicial District Court of Chambers County.
its guardianship, HHSC sued Mersch, seeking the return of
property that it claimed belonged to Stout-in particular,
certain Lunar Bibles and related memorabilia in Mersch's
possession. During the 1960's, Stout headed the Apollo
Prayer League, a group of Christian men involved in the
aerospace industry in the NASA area of Houston. The Lunar
Bibles are microfilmed Bibles that some member astronauts
carried into space on Apollo lunar missions.
dispute with Mersch proceeded in a separate case from the
guardianship, and was styled Texas Department of Aging
and Disability Services, as Guardian of the Person
and Estate of John Stout v. Carol Mersch and Heritage
Auctions, Inc., under cause number CV-26248, and also
was pending in the 344th Judicial District Court of Chambers
counterclaimed against HHSC "as guardian of the person
and estate of John Stout." Mersch sought declarations
that (1) the Lunar Bibles and related memorabilia were
property of other entities, not Stout; and (2) she owned
these entities and their property, including the Lunar Bibles
and related memorabilia. Mersch requested declarations that
she is the owner of (1) Aerospace Ministries, Apollo Prayer
League, APL News Service, and The Association of Space
Support Chaplains; and (2) all Aerospace Ministries and
Apollo Prayer League property, including "Apollo 12
miniature bound Bibles, Apollo 13 and 14 microfilm Lunar
Bibles, the Lunar Bible registry, supporting Lunar Bible
documentation and certification."
also sought a permanent injunction against HHSC, requiring
HHSC to "deliver all Aerospace Ministries and Apollo
Prayer League property to Carol Mersch, " and enjoining
HHSC from "delivering any Aerospace Ministries and
Apollo Prayer League property to any person or entity other
than Carol Mersch." Mersch later nonsuited her claims
seeking injunctive relief against HHSC, and she has not
trial court, HHSC filed a plea to the jurisdiction, seeking
dismissal of Mersch's counterclaims on the basis that (1)
the counterclaims against HHSC were barred by sovereign
immunity and (2) Mersch lacked standing because she sought
declarations addressing the rights of third parties. The
trial court granted the plea to the jurisdiction and
dismissed Mersch's counterclaims with prejudice.
died on December 8, 2016. After his death, HHSC nonsuited
with prejudice the claims that it had asserted against
Mersch. With HHSC's claims nonsuited, and Mersch's
counterclaims dismissed with prejudice, the trial court
issued a final order on December 16, 2016, dismissing the
entire cause with prejudice.
January 12, 2017, Mersch moved for new trial, requesting that
the trial court reinstate her counterclaims. Mersch argued
that, although HHSC would no longer be a party to the
litigation once discharged as Stout's guardian, HHSC
should be replaced by the administrator of Stout's
probate estate, against whom her counterclaims could be
asserted. On January 25, 2017, Mersch filed a motion for
reconsideration and restatement of her counterclaims, further
requesting that she be allowed to amend her pleadings to
assert her counterclaims against Stout's estate. On
February 16, 2017, the trial court denied Mersch's motion
for new trial and her motion for reconsideration.
25, 2017, the guardianship court issued an order approving
HHSC's account for final settlement of the estate.
Pursuant to its order, HHSC delivered all property at issue
in the case to the registry of the court. On May 25, 2017,