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In re Vinson

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso

June 10, 2019

IN RE: MARY ANNE VINSON, RELATOR.

          AN ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN MANDAMUS

          Before McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.

          OPINION

          YVONNE T. RODRIGUEZ, Justice

         Mary Anne Vinson filed a mandamus petition against the Honorable Luis Aguilar, Judge of the 243rd District Court of El Paso County, Texas. Vinson is challenging Respondent's order compelling her to attend mediation in cause number 2018DCV0953 styled Jaime Soto v. Stephanie Lisa Dutchover even though she is not a party to the suit.

         Judge Aguilar left office on December 31, 2018, and the Honorable Selena Solis took office as the Judge of the 243rd District Court on or about January 1, 2019. On our own motion, we issued an order that Judge Solis be substituted as Respondent in this original proceeding. See Tex.R.App.P. 7.2(a). We also gave Judge Solis an opportunity to reconsider Judge Aguilar's ruling that is the subject of this original proceeding. Judge Solis notified the Court that she has reviewed the order and will not be issuing any new orders. We conditionally grant mandamus relief.

         FACTUAL SUMMARY

         This original proceeding arises from a personal injury lawsuit pending in the 243rd District Court (cause number 2018DCV0953). The real party in interest, Jaime Soto, filed a negligence suit against Stephanie Lisa Dutchover alleging that she failed to control her speed and rear-ended Soto's vehicle. Allstate insured Dutchover and Vinson is an adjuster employed by Allstate. Allstate and Vinson are not parties to the suit.

         On August 16, 2018, the trial court signed an order appointing a mediator and requiring the parties to schedule a mediation within thirty days. The mediation order further required that: "All Parties and their representatives with full settlement authority shall attend the mediation process, with their counsel of record." The parties complied with the order and attended mediation on September 28, 2018. Vinson did not attend the mediation, but an Allstate representative attended. On October 1, 2018, the mediator filed a report stating that mediation was unsuccessful.

On October 23, 2018, Soto filed a motion to compel which stated the following:
On or about September 28, 2018, Plaintiff and Defendant attended Court-Ordered mediation at the offices of Daniel G. Mena, but were unsuccessful in settling this matter. Only two of the four hours allotted for mediation were used. The representative from Allstate that attended the mediation was not the handling claims adjuster who has been negotiating with Plaintiff throughout the course of this case. Under this Court's order, 'all parties and their representatives with full settlement authority shall attend the mediation process, with their counsel of record.' See Exhibit A. Plaintiff requests this Honorable Court to compel the handling claims adjuster, Mary Anne Vinson, who has full settlement authority, to attend the remaining two hours of Court-Ordered mediation. [Emphasis in orig.].

         Following a hearing held on November 1, 2018, the trial court granted the motion and entered an order compelling Vinson to attend mediation. Vinson did not provide the Court with a record of the hearing on the motion to compel, but the petition includes counsel's certification that no evidence was received at the November 1, 2018 hearing. See Tex.R.App.P. 52.7(a)(2)(requiring relator to file with the petition "a properly authenticated transcript of any relevant testimony from any underlying proceeding, including any exhibits offered in evidence, or a statement that no testimony was adduced in connection with the matter complained."). Counsel's certification is supported by a recitation in the trial court's order that the order was based on the parties' arguments presented at the hearing.

         COMPELLING INSURANCE COMPANY'S REPRESENTATIVE TO ATTEND MEDIATION

         In her sole issue, Vinson contends that the trial court clearly abused its discretion by compelling her to attend mediation in the underlying lawsuit.

         Standard ...


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