JEFFREY L. DOGGETT, Appellant
THE TRAVIS LAW FIRM, P.C. F/K/A TRAVIS & HAMMOND, P.C., Appellee
Appeal from the 333rd District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2014-10648
consists of Justices Keyes, Bland, and Lloyd.
RUSSELL LLOYD JUSTICE.
Jeffrey L. Doggett, appeals the trial court's judgment
rendered in favor of appellee, The Travis Law Firm f/k/a
Travis & Hammond, P.C. ("The Travis Law Firm"),
on its cause of action for invasion of privacy by
appropriation of name or likeness. Doggett raises eight
issues on appeal. In issues one and five through eight,
Doggett contends that The Travis Law Firm cannot recover on
its claim for invasion of privacy by misappropriation because
(1) a corporation does not have a right to privacy; (2) there
was no evidence presented at trial that (a) The Travis Law
Firm's name had any value, (b) the alleged appropriation
of the name was for any such value, (c) the alleged
appropriation resulted in a benefit to Doggett, and (d) The
Travis Law Firm's alleged damages were the proximate
consequence of Doggett's appropriation of its name; and
(3) the evidence conclusively proved that The Travis Law Firm
(a) consented to Doggett's use of its name and (b) was
estopped from complaining about Doggett's use of its
name. In issues two through four, Doggett argues that The
Travis Law Firm cannot recover attorney's fees from a
prior lawsuit as actual damages because (1) the Texas Supreme
Court has not adopted an equitable exception to the general
rule regarding attorney's fees; (2) an attorney
representing himself does not incur attorney's fees; and
(3) The Travis Law Firm was not a prevailing party in the
prior lawsuit. We reverse and render.
2008, Gregory R. Travis, the sole shareholder of The Travis
Law Firm, met with William D. Hammond to discuss the
possibility of working together. Travis and Hammond agreed to
change the firm's name to Travis & Hammond, P.C.
trial, Travis testified that he and Hammond changed the name
of the firm to facilitate a cross-marketing agreement between
them. Travis testified that Hammond's role at the firm
was that of a contract employee only but that Hammond was
allowed to obtain, in his individual capacity, the d/b/a
designation of Travis & Hammond. Travis testified that
the arrangement ultimately "didn't work out"
and ended approximately nine months later.
however, disputed Travis's characterization of their
arrangement. Hammond testified that he became a partner and
that he and Travis represented themselves as partners to the
public as well to as the bar.
began working at Travis & Hammond in 2008. Doggett and
Hammond testified that Travis offered, and Doggett accepted,
an "of counsel" position with the firm. Doggett
testified that, as part of the arrangement, he was allowed to
use the firm phone number, fax number, the email address
email@example.com, as well as internet and office
facilities, including the storage room, kitchen, and
conference room. Doggett also testified that the firm
receptionist answered his calls and the firm offered to do
his billing. Hammond testified that, as a firm partner, he
authorized Doggett to use the firm letterhead and the firm
name, without limitation, and that he specifically asked
Doggett to use the firm letterhead in cases on which they
worked together. Hammond further testified that the firm
listed Doggett's name together with the firm's name
in pleadings, and that Doggett used the firm's name in
some of the pleadings he filed. Doggett's biography and
photograph were included in the firm's marketing
materials and on the firm's website.
testified that he never discussed an "of counsel"
role for Doggett, that Doggett's role at the firm was
limited to leasing office space and working on his own cases
as well as Hammond's cases, and that any work Doggett
performed on Travis's cases was as a contract attorney.
Travis further testified that Hammond did not have the
authority to bind Travis & Hammond, and that Doggett was
prohibited from using the Travis & Hammond name on cases
that Doggett brought in and worked on in his individual
in 2008, Doggett was hired to represent a client named Li Li
in a lawsuit (the "1821 litigation") in which the
client was sued for breach of contract and negligence.
Doggett testified that Ms. Li hired him in his individual
capacity, and that she did not hire Travis & Hammond.
Nevertheless, Doggett sent emails to Ms. Li using the
firstname.lastname@example.org email account that included a
signature line showing Doggett's name and Travis &
Hammond, P.C. together. Doggett also signed the original
answer for Ms. Li as well as a counterclaim on her behalf
under the designation Travis & Hammond, P.C. Doggett
received $14, 279.31 for representing Ms. Li in the
"1821 litigation." On September 29, 2010, the trial
court rendered judgment against Ms. Li.
December 7, 2012, Ms. Li sued Doggett and The Travis Law Firm
f/k/a Travis & Hammond, P.C., alleging that Doggett had
committed malpractice in his representation of her, and that
The Travis Law Firm was liable under a theory of respondeat
superior. Travis asked Doggett to defend the firm in the
malpractice litigation but Doggett told Travis that he could
not do so because he was a fact witness in the case and was
representing himself, and that he was concerned that a
conflict of interest existed. Doggett subsequently
represented himself and The Travis Law Firm represented
itself in the malpractice suit. On September 13, 2013, one
day before her scheduled deposition, Ms. Li non-suited her
claims against Doggett and The Travis Law Firm.
February 28, 2014, The Travis Law Firm filed suit against
Doggett, alleging causes of action for negligence and
invasion of privacy by appropriation of name or likeness. It
later amended its petition to add claims for fraud, fraud by
nondisclosure, and breach of contract.
case proceeded to trial on August 15, 2016. The Travis Law
Firm submitted two causes of action to the jury: (1) invasion
of privacy by appropriation of name or likeness and (2)