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McGill v. GJG Productions, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 25, 2019

ANTHONY MCGILL AND AP MCGILL ENTERPRISE, LLC, Appellants
v.
GJG PRODUCTIONS, INC., Appellee

          On Appeal from the 80th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2015-38653

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Higley and Hightower.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard Hightower Justice

         Appellee GJG Productions, Inc. sued appellants Anthony McGill and AP McGill Enterprise, LLC (McGill) seeking to recover staging equipment and asserting claims for conversion and civil theft under the Texas Theft Liability Act. The suit was originally filed in the 11th District Court of Harris County. A week before the second trial setting, the trial court granted partial summary judgment for GJG on liability. The suit was then transferred to the 80th District Court for trial on damages only.

         A jury awarded GJG actual damages of $16, 073. The final judgment incorporated the partial summary judgment on liability and awarded GJG actual damages of $16, 073 and trial and appellate attorneys' fees.

         McGill appeals only the trial court's grant of partial summary judgment on liability. We affirm.

         Background

         GJG's summary-judgment evidence, consisting of the affidavits of George Grega and Edwin Brown, reflects that GJG, a Houston-based production company that was owned and operated by Grega, provided audio, visual, and staging equipment for special events such as concerts and festivals. GJG and other companies in the industry often rented equipment from each other and hired each other as subcontractors. One of the other production companies GJG worked with over the years, including by subcontracting, was Starr Sound Systems, which was owned by Brown.

         McGill planned to put on a Zydeco and Blues festival on the weekend of April 11-12, 2015 on his property in central Houston. A mutual acquaintance introduced Brown to McGill, and McGill hired Starr on February 20, 2015 to provide audio, lighting, and staging for the festival. Starr then subcontracted the staging portion of the work to GJG. Starr received from McGill a 50% nonrefundable down payment, which is standard in the industry because once a stage is set up, the labor is done and the stage cannot be used elsewhere. GJG charged Starr a 50% nonrefundable down payment for the staging equipment.

         GJG tried to set up the stage the Tuesday before the April 11-12 weekend festival to provide Starr and others sufficient time to complete their work after the stage was in place. Brown met Grega and the GJG crew at the property, and Brown then introduced Grega to McGill and explained to McGill that GJG would be handling the staging portion of the work. At the time, McGill was constructing a roof over the area where the stage would be, so he asked GJG to return the next morning. GJG returned the next day as requested and set up the stage. The 40' by 40' stage consisted of 50 stage decks (some that GJG owned and others that it had to rent) that measured 8' by 4', legs and clamps, stairs, and black stage-skirting.

         After GJG's crew had set up the stage, McGill postponed the festival until the following weekend because of rain. McGill notified Brown of the postponement and requested that GJG leave the stage in place until after the rescheduled event. Grega asked whether GJG could be paid for the extra week's use of its equipment, especially because GJG had planned on using it for another job that week. Brown relayed the request to McGill, who became angry and refused to pay for the extra time. Ultimately, GJG agreed to leave the stage on McGill's property for the extra week.

         The rain continued into the next week, and the following Thursday, April 16, Brown learned that McGill had cancelled the festival. That weekend, Grega called McGill to find out when he could retrieve the staging equipment. McGill told him the ground was still very wet and muddy, so GJG should wait until it dried out before trying to bring trucks in.

         On Monday, Brown called McGill to ask about retrieving the equipment. McGill became very angry and told Brown no one could get their equipment until his down payments were refunded. Brown explained to McGill that down payments "are always non-refundable because they compensate vendors for the use of their equipment (that cannot be used elsewhere) and labor that is needed to prepare for a job." McGill hung up before Brown could finish his explanation. Grega tried calling McGill several times over the next week or so but made no progress.

         On April 29, Grega called the Houston Police Department for help in getting his equipment. After speaking with an officer, Grega took a crew to McGill's property and discovered the gate was open. They attempted to enter, but were met by McGill, who refused to let them get the staging equipment and ordered them to leave. Grega and the GJG crew parked across the street, where Grega once again called police for help. This time, an officer was dispatched to the scene, and he spoke with McGill, who continued to refuse to let GJG get its ...


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