TINA LEA HAIGHT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF GRADY MARTIN HAIGHT, DECEASED, Appellants
KOLEY JESSEN PC, LLO, DAVID DVORAK, AND DAVID MAYER, Appellees
the 40th District Court Ellis County, Texas Trial Court No.
Chief Justice Gray, [*] Justice Davis, and Justice Neill.
E. NEILL JUSTICE.
Tina Haight, individually and as Executrix of the Estate of
Grady Martin Haight, and Mark Fankhauser, as the Dependent
Administrator with Will Annexed of the Estate of Grady Martin
Haight, filed suit against Appellees, Koley Jessen P.C.,
L.L.O., David Dvorak, and David Mayer for legal malpractice. The
trial court granted Appellees' traditional motion for
summary judgment. We affirm.
Haight and Grady Martin Haight (Marty) married in December
1998, and Tina filed for divorce in May 2009. Marty passed
away on March 27, 2014, and at the time of his death the
divorce proceedings were still pending. The Haights owned
several businesses, including a roofing business and other
businesses related to repair of storm damaged properties.
Marty ran the Haight businesses, and he hired the law firm of
Koley Jessen P.C., L.L.O. to represent some of the Haight
businesses. Marty and Tina were each represented by separate
counsel for the divorce proceedings.
Marty's death, David Dvorak and David Mayer, partners in
the Koley Jessen firm, began communicating with Tina and her
personal lawyers concerning the sale of the Haight
businesses. At the time Marty's will was admitted to
probate, Tina was appointed Independent Executor of
Marty's estate. Tina later resigned as Independent
Executor of the estate, and Mark Fankhauser was appointed as
Temporary Administrator of the estate. Fankhauser was later
appointed Administrator with Will Annexed of the Estate of
Grady Martin Haight, deceased. Fankhauser was substituted as
a party in this cause of action. Tina eventually entered into
an agreement for the sale of her interest and the
estate's interest in all of the Haight businesses. After
the agreement was finalized, Tina Haight, individually and as
Executrix of the Estate of Grady Martin Haight, filed suit in
district court against Appellees and others for legal
malpractice. Tina ultimately settled her disputes with the
brings four issues on appeal. She argues that 1) the trial
court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal; 2) the trial
court erred in granting Appellees' motion for summary
judgment; 3) the trial court erred in striking her summary
judgment evidence; and 4) the trial court erred in granting
summary judgment on all claims if it could only be sustained
on conclusively negating reliance. Fankhauser brings four
issues on appeal and argues that 1) summary judgment evidence
was not properly before the court; 2) Appellees' failure
to comply with Rule 1.07 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of
Professional Conduct precludes summary judgment in their
favor; 3) the trial court improperly granted summary judgment
because there was conflicting testimony; and 4) Appellees
cannot rely on quasi-estoppel as a basis for summary
issues on appeal
first issue, Tina argues that the district court did not have
jurisdiction over the case. Ellis County does not have a
statutory probate court. The Texas Estates Code provides that
a probate proceeding includes any matter related to the
settlement, partition, or distribution of an estate.
See Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 31.001 (West 2014). A
matter related to a probate proceeding in a county in which
there is no statutory probate court, but in which there is a
county court at law exercising original probate jurisdiction,
includes a claim brought by a personal representative on
behalf of an estate. See Tex. Est. Code Ann. §
31.002 (West 2014).
contends that the present case is a matter related to the
Haight probate proceeding because she brought the suit on
behalf of herself as well as in her capacity as the
Independent Executor of the Estate of Grady Martin Haight.
Tina argues that because Ellis County Court, the County Court
at Law of Ellis County, and the County Court at Law No. 2 of
Ellis County are the only courts with original probate
jurisdiction in Ellis County, the District Court lacked
jurisdiction to hear this case.
In re Hannah, relator had a relationship with the
decedent and was named in his 2009 and 2010 wills. In re
Hannah, 431 S.W.3d 801 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.]
2014, orig. proceeding). However, decedent executed a will in
2012 that did not include relator. In re Hannah, 431
S.W.3d at 804. After the death of the decedent, the 2012 will
was admitted to probate and relator did not contest the will.
In re Hannah, 431 S.W.3d at 805. Relator filed suit
in district court for tortious interference with inheritance,
slander, and conspiracy. Id.
In re Hannah, the court held that a cause of action
brought in the district court was not a "matter related
to a probate proceeding" within the scope of Section
31.002 of the Estates Code. In re Hannah, 431 S.W.3d
at 809. The court focused on the nature of the damages
sought, and held that because the suit sought damages which
would, if awarded, be satisfied from the defendant's
individual assets rather than from any ...