Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
GUARDIANSHIP OF LEON R. BERNSEN, SR., AN INCAPACITATED PERSON
appeal from the County Court at Law No. 5 of Nueces County,
Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Benavides and Longoria
ROGELIO VALDEZ, Chief Justice
three issues, appellant Leon Bernsen, Sr. appeals the trial
court's award of attorney's fees to appellee Leon
Garrick Bernsen. We reverse and render.
filed an application for appointment of permanent
guardianship of appellant, appellee's grandfather.
Appellant's daughter, Dianna Bernsen, filed a motion in
limine requesting to strike appellee's pleadings because
according to Dianna, appellee lacked standing. Specifically,
Dianna argued that appellee lacked standing because he had an
interest that was adverse to appellant. The trial court
appointed a temporary guardian of the person and estate of
appellant. The trial court then entered an order granting
Dianna's motion in limine stating, "The Court, after
considering the evidence and hearing the arguments of the
attorneys, finds that [appellee] lacks standing in this
matter as he has interests that are adverse to
[appellant]." The trial court "ORDERED that
[appellee] may not file an application to create a
guardianship for [appellant]; contest the creation of a
guardianship for [appellant]; or contest the appointment of a
person as a guardian of [appellant]." In a separate
order, the trial court found that appellee filed his
application for guardianship of appellant in good faith with
just cause, and it awarded attorney's fees to appellee in
the amount of $24, 898.02 to be paid from appellant's
estate. This appeal followed.
first issue, appellant contends that appellee's lack of
standing to file an application for guardianship prohibited
the trial court from awarding attorney's fees to
appellee. Appellee responds that, because the trial court
determined that he filed his application for guardianship in
good faith with due cause, he is entitled to attorney's
fees pursuant to section 1155.054 of the estates code.
See Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 1155.054 (West,
Westlaw through 2017 1st C.S.).
1055.001 of the estates code entitled, "Standing to
Commence or Contest Proceeding, " states, "A person
who has an interest that is adverse to a proposed ward or
incapacitated person, " may not, among other things,
"file an application to create a guardianship
for the proposed ward or incapacitated person." See
id. § 1055.001(b)(1) (West, Westlaw through 2017
1st C.S.) (emphasis added). A trial court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over a cause of action brought by a
plaintiff who lacks standing to assert the claim.
DaimlerChrysler Corporation v. Inman, 252 S.W.3d
299, 309 (Tex. 2008). If the plaintiff lacks standing, the
trial court should dismiss the claim. Id.
the trial court determined that appellee lacked standing to
file an application for guardianship of appellant because
appellee has interests that are adverse to appellant.
See Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 105.001(b)(1).
Thus, because appellee lacked standing in this cause, the
trial court lacked jurisdiction over appellee's claims.
See DaimlerChrysler Corporation, 252 S.W.3d at 309.
And, the trial court was required to dismiss appellee's
cause. See id. Because the trial court lacked
jurisdiction over appellee's cause, any order entered by
the trial court in favor of appellee is void. See Hagen
v. Hagen, 282 S.W.3d 899, 910 (Tex. 2009) ("If a
plaintiff with no standing obtains a judgment for negligent
infliction of emotional distress, the decree is both voidable
(negligent infliction is not a valid claim) and void
(standing is jurisdictional)."); Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., v. Ballestas, 355 S.W.3d 187, 191 (Tex.
App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011) ("A trial court's
judgment is void if the court lacked jurisdiction over the
subject matter of the claim. A trial court has jurisdiction
over the subject matter of a claim only if the claimant has
standing to assert the claim.") (internal citations
appellee argues that he was entitled to attorney's fees
pursuant to section 1155.054, stating, in pertinent part,
that a trial court that creates a guardianship, "on
request of a person who filed an application to be appointed
guardian of the proposed ward . . . may authorize the payment
of reasonable and necessary attorney's fees, as
determined by the court. . . ." to the applicant
regardless of whether the applicant is appointed guardian if
the applicant filed the application in good faith.
See Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 1155.054.
Specifically, appellee asserts that he filed his application
in good faith, as found by the trial court, and that it does
not matter that he was not appointed appellant's guardian
under section 1155.054. See id.
found no cases construing the meaning of these statutes.
However, we disagree with appellee because section
105.001(b)(1) specifies that a person who lacks standing may
not file an application to create a guardianship. See
id. § 105.001(b)(1). The Legislature chose to set
out in section 105.001(b)(1) that a person who has an adverse
interest to the ward lacks standing to file an
application to create a guardianship. And, the law is clear
that a trial court lacks jurisdiction if the party does not
have standing in the matter, and a trial court's order in
favor of party who lacks standing is void. See
Hagen, 282 S.W.3d at 910; Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., 355 S.W.3d at 191. Accordingly, we conclude that
the trial court's order awarding attorney's fees to
appellee is void. We sustain appellant's first
reverse the trial court's judgment awarding
attorney's fees, and we render judgment dismissing
appellee's cause. See City of Garland v. Louton,
691 S.W.2d 603, 605 (Tex.1985) (per curiam) ("If the
trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the appellate
court can make no order ...