Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
IN RE SERVICE CORPORATION INTERNATIONAL AND SCI TEXAS FUNERAL SERVICES, LLC (SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TO SCI TEXAS FUNERAL SERVICES, INC.) D/B/A BUENA VISTA BURIAL PARK AND D/B/A FUNERARIA DEL ANGEL BUENA VISTA
Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Benavides and Hinojosa
CONTRERAS, Chief Justice.
Service Corporation International and SCI Texas Funeral
Services, LLC (successor-in-interest to SCI Texas Funeral
Services, Inc.) d/b/a Buena Vista Burial Park and d/b/a
Funeraria del Angel Buena Vista filed a petition for writ of
mandamus in the above cause on April 9, 2019. Through this
original proceeding, relators contend that the trial
court erred by compelling pre-arbitration
depositions that are "outside the proper scope of
pre-arbitration discovery." We conditionally grant the
petition for writ of mandamus.
underlying lawsuit, real party in interest Maria Ruiz alleges
that relators committed fraud in handling the funeral
services and burial of Ruiz's deceased brother, Ernesto
Eguia. Ruiz had signed two contracts for her brother's
funeral services which contained arbitration clauses. In a
previous appeal arising from this case, relators challenged
the trial court's denial of their motion to compel
arbitration based on the arbitration clauses in these
contracts. See Serv. Corp. Int'l v. Ruiz, No.
13-16-00699-CV, 2018 WL 549196, at *1-9 (Tex. App.-Corpus
Christi-Edinburg Jan. 25, 2018, pet. denied) (mem. op.). We
concluded that the arbitration clauses were valid and binding
and that Ruiz's claims fell within the scope of the
arbitration clauses. Id. at *5-7. We rejected
Ruiz's claim that fraud barred arbitration. Id.
at *8-9. We concluded, however, that the trial court had not
reached the merits of Ruiz's unconscionability defense,
and the undeveloped record did not permit us to reach the
merits of that defense. Id. at *9. We declined to
address the merits of her unconscionability defense, and we
left this issue for the trial court's resolution.
Id. We reversed the trial court's order denying
arbitration and remanded the matter to the trial court for
further proceedings consistent with our opinion regarding the
resolution of Ruiz's unconscionability defense.
the parties held a series of hearings regarding discovery. On
September 22, 2017, during the pendency of the appeal, the
trial court signed a written order compelling various forms
of discovery. In pertinent part, the order granted Ruiz's
motion to compel the deposition of Arturo Leal, the
individual who allegedly embalmed the decedent. On March 5,
2019, at the hearing on relators' motion to reconsider
the September 22, 2017 ruling, the trial court declined to
reconsider his order compelling Leal's deposition and
further orally granted Ruiz's request to depose
"people in the arrangement room" who were
"witnesses to how the contract[s were] entered
into." At a subsequent hearing on April 4, 2019
regarding this discovery, the trial court ordered that the
scope of discovery encompassed "up to July the 3rd,
which is when [the decedent] was buried." The trial
court did not sign an order reducing its oral ruling
regarding these additional depositions to
original proceeding ensued. By two issues, relators contend
that (1) the trial court abused its discretion in ordering
discovery that is beyond the proper scope of pre-arbitration
discovery, and (2) they lack an adequate remedy by appeal.
This Court requested that Ruiz, or any others whose interests
would be directly affected by the relief sought, file a
response to the petition for writ of mandamus. See
Tex. R. Civ. P. 52.2, 52.4, 52.8. Ruiz filed a response to
the petition for writ of mandamus through which she asserts,
inter alia, that "the trial court was not given a chance
to exercise its discretion" and pointed out that the
trial court stated at the April 4, 2019 hearing that it had
not had the opportunity to read all the underlying motions.
She asserted that relators were "obstructing the trial
court's attempt to be properly informed to exercise its
discretion." She argued that the trial court had not
"fully" exercised its discretion by signing an
order and that a written order was "necessary" to
support mandamus review. Ruiz further asserted, on the
merits, that the scope of the circumstances surrounding the
issue of arbitrability "include all circumstances
related to the mishandling of the corpse."
April 24, 2019, this Court abated this original proceeding
and remanded it to the trial court. We noted that the record
before the Court included one written order pertaining to
discovery signed on September 22, 2017; however, the
remainder of the discovery rulings at issue were oral.
Mandamus may be based on an oral ruling. See In re
Nabors, 276 S.W.3d 190, 192 n.3 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2009, orig. proceeding); In re Bill Heard
Chevrolet, Ltd., 209 S.W.3d 311, 314 (Tex. App.-Houston
[1st Dist.] 2006, orig. proceeding); In re Bledsoe,
41 S.W.3d 807, 811 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2001, orig.
proceeding). However, the ruling must be clear, specific,
enforceable, and adequately shown by the record. In re
State ex rel. Munk, 448 S.W.3d 687, 690 (Tex.
App.-Eastland 2014, orig. proceeding); In re
Bledsoe, 41 S.W.3d at 811. Given the foregoing, we
remanded this original proceeding "for the limited
purpose of providing the respondent with an opportunity to
fully exercise his discretion and prepare and sign any
written orders necessary pertaining to the discovery at issue
here." On remand, on May 2, 2019, the trial court signed
an order which states:
following matters were set for hearing on March 5, 2019 at
• Defendants' Motion for Hearing to Compel
Arbitration and for Abatement of Suit Pending Arbitration;
• Defendants' Amended Motion for Reconsideration (of
Court's prior discovery order);
• Plaintiff's Response to said Motions;
• Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Arbitration Hearing
Pending Limited Discovery;
• Plaintiff's Motion for Limited ...