Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
Appeal from County Court at Law No. 2 Denton County, Texas
Trial Court No. CV-2016-01764
Kerr, Bassel, and Womack, JJ.
ELIZABETH KERR JUSTICE
the fifth appeal filed by pro se litigant Kelly Thomas
arising from her suit against Carl Pugliese, the owner of
Carl's Handyman; Seth Johns, the alleged "CMO"
of Carl's Handyman; and Culpepper Plumbing and Air
Conditioning, Inc.This time, Thomas appeals from the trial
court's order dismissing all her claims with prejudice.
We will affirm.
August 2016, Thomas, proceeding pro se, sued Pugliese and
Johns (collectively, Carl's Handyman) and Culpepper
Plumbing alleging that they performed defective plumbing work
at her home. Thomas later retained counsel, and in
April 2017, counsel filed an amended petition on her behalf
asserting claims for negligence, breach of contract, and
violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Shortly thereafter, Carl's Handyman moved to abate the
case because Thomas had not given the written notice required
by statute. See Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann.
§ 17.505. The trial court abated the case for 60 days.
the abatement, Thomas fired her attorney. After the case was
reinstated, Thomas's attorney moved to withdraw. The
trial court granted the motion.
October 2017, Culpepper Plumbing specially excepted to
Thomas's amended petition. The following month,
Carl's Handyman and Culpepper Plumbing moved for
sanctions against Thomas, complaining that Thomas and her
attorney had filed several documents while the case was
abated and that throughout the litigation, Thomas had
filed-and continued to file-numerous voluminous pleadings
without any legal or factual basis.
trial court heard the special exceptions and the sanctions
motion on November 21, 2017. During the hearing, Carl's
Handyman asked to join Culpepper Plumbing's special
exceptions, and Thomas did not object. On November 28, 2017,
the trial court sustained the special exceptions,
ordered Thomas to amend or replead the 31 paragraphs
constituting the factual-background and causes-of-action
sections of her petition within 30 days, and warned that if
she failed to comply, the trial court would strike those
paragraphs. The trial court also granted the sanctions
motions and awarded Carl's Handyman and Culpepper
Plumbing $2, 000 each in monetary sanctions, payable in $200
monthly payments due on the first day of the month. Similar
to the special-exceptions order, the trial court warned
Thomas that if she failed to make the payments, "either
timely or in full," the trial court would strike her
pleadings and dismiss her claims.
December 2017, Thomas twice moved to recuse the trial-court
judge. See Tex. R. Civ. P 18a(a), 18b(b). The
trial-court judge referred each motion to the regional
presiding judge. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 18a(f)(1)(B).
The regional presiding judge considered the motions
separately and denied Thomas's first motion on January 8,
2018, and her second motion on February 12, 2018. After the
regional presiding judge denied her second recusal motion,
Thomas requested findings of fact and conclusions of law. The
regional presiding judge denied the request.
meantime, on January 12, 2018, Carl's Handyman and
Culpepper Plumbing jointly moved to strike Thomas's
pleadings and to dismiss her claims because she had failed to
comply with the special-exceptions and sanctions orders.
After a hearing, the trial court signed a final judgment on
March 1, 2018, granting the dismissal motion and dismissing
Thomas's claims with prejudice.
Issues and Appellate Arguments
construe briefs liberally. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.9.
But a pro se litigant is held to the same standards as a
licensed attorney and must comply with applicable laws and
procedural rules. Flores v. Office Depot, Inc., No.
02-10-00311-CV, 2011 WL 2611140, at *2 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth
June 30, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.); Strange v. Cont'l
Cas. Co., 126 S.W.3d 676, 677 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2004,
pet. denied). On appeal, a pro se appellant must properly
present her case. Flores, 2011 WL 2611140, at *2;
Strange, 126 S.W.3d at 678. To do so, her brief must
contain, among ...