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Jones v. RGJ Apartments Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

June 20, 2019

LATIA M. JONES, Appellant
v.
RGJ APARTMENTS INC., A/K/A RGJ INC., A/K/A VICTORIA PARK APARTMENTS, A/K/A RGJ APTS INC., A/K/A VICTORIA PARK APARTMENT HOME INC., Appellee

          On Appeal from the 295th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2017-44729

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Bourliot, and Spain.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles A. Spain Justice.

         Appellee RGJ Apartments Inc., a/k/a RGJ Inc., a/k/a Victoria Park Apartments, a/k/a RGJ Apts Inc., a/k/a Victoria Park Apartment Home Inc. ("RGJ") brought a prior eviction case against appellant Latia M. Jones. Judgment was awarded in favor of RGJ. Jones subsequently sued RGJ in Harris County district court for defamation. Both Jones and RGJ filed traditional motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied Jones's motion in an order signed December 7, 2017. The trial court also signed a final summary judgment on December 7, 2017, which granted RGJ's motion for summary judgment. Jones appeals from the denial of her motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

         I. Background

         In 2015, RGJ brought an eviction action against Jones in Harris County Justice of the Peace Court, Precinct 5, Place 1. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 500.3(d), 510. The justice court rendered judgment in favor of RGJ against Jones. Jones appealed to the Harris County Court at Law No. 2, where trial proceeded de novo. See id. 506.1-.3, 510.9- .10. In November 2015, the county court signed its final judgment and order of possession in favor of RGJ and against Jones. RGJ also was awarded a monetary judgment for rent deficiency. In 2017, Jones deposited funds into the registry of the trial court. RGJ moved to withdraw those funds and filed a release of judgment.

         Jones filed an original petition against RGJ, alleging that RGJ did not file a release of judgment in justice court and RGJ "further ruined [Jones's] reputation by and through a third party [credit reporting service] who has maliciously reported a debt on [her] credit report and refuses to stop reporting it." RGJ filed a general denial, and in defense of Jones's claim, RGJ alleged justification, collateral estoppel, lack of condition precedent, lack of ripeness, and truth.

         RGJ filed a traditional motion for summary judgment. RGJ noted that Jones's petition was unclear but "seem[ed] to complain of a libel or slander." RGJ argued there were no genuine issues of material fact as to the requisite defamation[1] element of publication. RGJ also argued there were no genuine issues of material fact on its truth and collateral-estoppel defenses.

         Jones also filed a traditional motion for summary judgment. RGJ filed a response to Jones's motion, an objection to incompetent summary-judgment evidence, and a motion to strike. Jones filed a response to RGJ's objection.

         On December 7, 2017, the trial court signed an order denying Jones's motion for summary judgment. Also, on December 7, 2017, the trial court signed a final summary judgment in which it granted RGJ's motion for summary judgment and ordered that Jones take nothing by her suit. The trial court did not specify any ground for granting summary judgment in its final judgment.

         II. Analysis

         Jones's single issue on appeal concerns whether "the trial court err[ed] in its decision to deny . . . Jones'[s] Motion for Summary Judgement as a matter of law."[2]

         As stated above, the trial court also considered RGJ's motion for summary judgment and granted it. In its motion, RGJ argued that it was entitled to summary judgment in its favor and Jones could not recover on her defamation claim as a matter of law for three reasons:

• First, because the county court, not RGJ, was the publisher of the judgment about ...

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