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Corey v. Rankin

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

June 25, 2019


          On Appeal from the 506th District Court Grimes County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 31919

          Panel consists of Justices Wise, Zimmerer, and Spain.



         Appellants Jack Corey and Corey Supply appeal the trial court's post-judgment order imposing monetary sanctions against them in connection with Corey's failure to appear at a deposition noticed by appellees, Jonathan L. Rankin and RAMS Aviation Company, Inc. ("RAMS"). In a single issue, Corey and Corey Supply contend the trial court abused its discretion in assessing sanctions. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Rankin and RAMS obtained a judgment against Jack Corey.[1] Rankin and RAMS sought to conduct a post-judgment deposition of Corey in an effort to collect the judgment. Rankin and RAMS repeatedly attempted to schedule the deposition by agreement, but Corey did not respond with available dates. Consequently, Rankin and RAMS served Corey with a deposition notice setting the deposition for September 20, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

         On September 19, 2017, the day before the scheduled deposition, Corey and Corey Supply paid cash into the court's registry in lieu of a bond, ceasing enforcement of the judgment. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 621a; Tex.R.App.P. 24.1. After 4:00 p.m. on the same day, Corey and Corey Supply informed Rankin and RAMS that the cash deposit had been made and, as a result, Corey would not appear for his deposition.

         Rankin and RAMS moved to compel Corey's deposition, arguing that the cash paid into the court's registry was insufficient to supersede the judgment and suspend enforcement proceedings. In the same motion, Rankin and RAMS also moved for sanctions against Corey and Corey Supply pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 215, specifically 215.1, for Corey's failure to appear at the deposition. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 215. In support of the request for sanctions, Rankin and RAMS attached to the motion an affidavit and a billing record showing they had incurred $1, 340 in attorney's fees for four hours their attorneys spent preparing for the deposition.

         After a hearing, the trial court denied in part, and granted in part, Rankin and RAMS's motion. The trial court determined the judgment had been superseded[2]and denied the request to compel the deposition. However, the court granted the request for sanctions and ordered Corey and Corey Supply to pay $1, 340 in sanctions.

         II. Analysis

         Corey and Corey Supply argue the trial court abused its discretion by awarding sanctions because Corey and Corey Supply had superseded the judgment prior to the scheduled deposition. Corey and Corey Supply suggest that because they superseded the judgment before the deposition date, the deposition notice was no longer effective, and therefore, Corey's failure to appear for the deposition did not warrant sanctions pursuant to Rule 215.1.[3]

         We review a trial court's imposition of sanctions for an abuse of discretion. Am. Flood Research, Inc. v. Jones, 192 S.W.3d 581, 583 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). Sanctions will be reversed only if the trial court acted without reference to any guiding rules and principles, such that its ruling was arbitrary or unreasonable. Id.

         The trial court's order awarding sanctions did not refer to Rule 215.1 or track the language of Rule 215.1; thus, whether the sanctions were proper is not governed by Rule 215.1 alone. See Am. Flood Research, 192 S.W.3d at 583-84 ("The order imposing sanctions neither referred to a specific rule nor tracked the language of any particular rule; thus, . . . whether the trial court properly sanctioned [attorney] is not governed by Rule 215.3 alone."). Although Rankin and RAMS's motion specifically references sanctions under Rule 215.1(b) in addition to generally referencing Rule 215, we conclude that the motion and arguments presented were sufficiently broad for us to affirm the trial court's sanctions order under Rule 215.3.[4] See Oliver v. Smith Int'l, Inc., No. 14-11-00276-CV, 2011 WL 5056422, at *2 & n.5 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Oct. 25, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.) (concluding motion and arguments were broad enough to affirm sanctions under Rule 215.3 although movant specifically referenced Rule 215.1(b)(2)(A)). Rule 215.3 provides that the trial court may impose sanctions "[i]f the court finds a party is abusing the discovery process in seeking, making, or resisting discovery."

         In their motion, Rankin and RAMS argued that Corey and Corey Supply were abusing the discovery process by resisting discovery. Rankin and RAMS asserted that they made "multiple attempts" to schedule the post-judgment deposition by agreement but their efforts were "completely ignored." Rankin and RAMS also asserted that, "[d]espite knowing Rankin[ and RAMS's] intent to proceed with collection of the judgment entered against Defendants for months, Defendants waited over six weeks, until the day before the scheduled deposition to take any action with respect to the Notice of Deposition." Rankin and RAMS complained that "Defendants . . . only notified Rankin [and RAMS] late in the afternoon the day before the scheduled deposition that they would not be present." ...

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