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In re Forney

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 2, 2018

In Re William Forney, Jr., et al.

          Original Mandamus Proceeding [1]

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Irene Rios Justice

          OPINION

          Irene Rios, Justice

         Relators William Forney, Jr. ("Forney, Jr."), William Forney, III ("Forney III"), John M. Forney ("JM Forney"), Ricky Haikin, and Larry Wyont filed a petition for writ of mandamus complaining about the trial court's denial of their pleas in abatement in a suit filed by McCombs Energy, Ltd. and McCombs Energy GP, LLC. (collectively, "McCombs Energy"). We deny relators' petition.

         Background

         On March 10, 2017, Forney, Jr., Forney III, JM Forney, and Haikin sued McCombs Energy in a Harris County district court. McCombs Energy answered and filed counter-claims. On March 29, 2017, McCombs Energy sued those individuals, along with Wyont, Forney, Jr.'s two brothers, and three business entities, in a Bexar County district court.

         Relators and others filed motions to transfer venue of the Bexar County case to Harris County. Alternatively, relators also filed pleas in abatement asking the Bexar County court to abate that suit in favor of the Harris County court's dominant jurisdiction. Following a hearing, the Bexar County court denied the motions to transfer venue and pleas in abatement. In this proceeding, relators complain only about the denial of the pleas in abatement.

         Standard of Review

         To obtain mandamus relief, a relator generally must show both the trial court clearly abused its discretion and relator has no adequate remedy by appeal. In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d 124, 135-36 (Tex. 2004) (orig. proceeding); Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839-40 (Tex. 1992) (orig. proceeding).

         Dominant Jurisdiction

         Relators argue the trial court abused its discretion by denying their pleas in abatement because the Harris County court has dominant jurisdiction over the Bexar County suit. As a general rule, "where inherently interrelated suits are pending in two counties, and venue is proper in either county, the court in which suit was first filed acquires dominant jurisdiction . . . [and] the court in the second action must abate the suit, " unless an exception applies. In re Red Dot Bldg. Sys., Inc., 504 S.W.3d 320, 322 (Tex. 2016) (per curiam) (orig. proceeding) (emphasis in original). "[I]f the court in the second action abuses its discretion by not abating the action, no additional showing is required for mandamus relief." Id. at 322; see also In re J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 492 S.W.3d 287, 299-300 (Tex. 2016) (orig. proceeding) ("[A] relator need only establish a trial court's abuse of discretion to demonstrate entitlement to mandamus relief with regard to a plea in abatement in a dominant-jurisdiction case.").

         In this proceeding, the parties dispute whether the two lawsuits are inherently interrelated.

         Inherent Relationship

         In determining whether the subject matter of two suits is inherently interrelated, we are "guided by the rule governing persons to be joined if feasible and the compulsory counterclaim rule." Wyatt v. Shaw Plumbing Co., 760 S.W.2d 245, 247 (Tex. 1988). The compulsory counterclaim ...


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