Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 191st Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-07-04346.
Justices Myers, Molberg, and Carlyle.
L. CARLYLE JUSTICE.
Owens appeals from the district court's order dismissing
his petition. He contends the district court erred: (1) by
applying res judicata to any of his claims against Billy D.
Wyatt; (2) by applying res judicata to all of his claims
against Jerry Alexander; (3) by dismissing his claims
"with prejudice," despite determining that it
lacked jurisdiction; and (4) by delaying its ruling for
approximately seven years in violation of his right to due
process. We affirm and, because the issues are settled in
law, issue this memorandum opinion. See Tex. R. App.
alleges he is the common-law adopted son of Georgia Elredge
McGowan. After McGowan passed away in November 2006, Owens
tried to obtain her estate on this basis. In May 2007, he
filed a lawsuit against Alexander in the Dallas County
district court requesting, among other things, a declaratory
judgment determining: (1) whether Alexander "was the
guardian, trustee, administrator or had power of attorney
over" McGowan or her estate before her death; (2)
whether and to what extent Alexander was the qualified
executor of McGowan's estate; and (3) whether Owens
qualified as McGowan's next of kin or was otherwise an
interested person for purposes of her estate.
case was dismissed for want of prosecution in August 2008,
but was reinstated on the district court's docket a few
months later. In March 2010, Alexander filed a motion to
dismiss and plea to the jurisdiction, asserting Owens lacked
standing to bring claims relating to McGowan's estate.
Owens responded and amended his petition to assert additional
claims against Alexander, as well as claims against Wyatt. He
alleged they defrauded him out of his inheritance by, among
other things, forging McGowan's estate documents.
Although Owens tried to frame at least a portion of his
claims in terms of duties owed to him directly, his claims
were all based on the loss of his purported interest in
2010, after a hearing on the plea to the jurisdiction, the
trial court transferred the case to the Dallas County probate
court on its own motion and administratively closed the case
on its docket. The probate court, however, rejected the
transfer. Citing § 5b of the Texas Probate
then in effect, the probate court determined the district
court lacked authority to transfer the case. As a result, the
case was no longer active on either docket as of September
Owens filed a separate application to determine heirship in
the Dallas County probate court in September 2010, which was
given a different docket number. Meanwhile, Alexander
initiated probate proceedings in Denton County, where McGowan
resided at the time of her death. The Denton County probate
court entered McGowan's will and codicils into probate in
February 2011 and appointed Alexander as the independent
executor of her estate. About six months later, the Denton
County probate court entered a final order approving the
estate's inventory, appraisement, and list of claims.
contends he was unaware of the Denton County probate
proceedings until May of 2012, resulting in his continued
pursuit of the heirship application in the Dallas County
probate court. In February 2012, after the court failed to
respond to his requests to set a hearing on the application,
he filed a petition for a writ of mandamus. Soon after, the
Dallas County probate court set a hearing and appointed an ad
litem to represent the unknown heirs. At the May 2012
hearing, however, Owens was informed that the will had
already been probated in Denton County and thus, the Dallas
County probate court lacked jurisdiction over his heirship
then filed a motion seeking to transfer both his heirship
application (from the Dallas County probate court) and his
original petition (from the Dallas County district court) to
the Denton County probate court. After neither court ruled on
that motion, Owens filed an October 2012 motion to reopen his
case in the Dallas County district court. He followed that
motion up with a December 2012 request for a ruling, but he
took no further action in Dallas County until March 2017.
Instead, he filed a bill of review in the Denton County
probate court in February 2013, seeking to have the final
judgment concerning McGowan's estate set aside. The bill
of review was denied in April 2013, and the Second Court of
Appeals dismissed Owens's resulting appeal because he
never filed a brief. See In re Estate of McGowan,
No. 02-13-00157-CV, 2013 WL 6046639, at *1 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth Nov. 14, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.).
in March 2017, Owens sought to revive his Dallas County suit.
He sent the district court a letter asking for a status
update on his case. After the trial court failed to respond,
Owens filed a petition for a writ of mandamus. We
conditionally granted the writ in September 2017 and
instructed the district court to rule on Owens's motion
to reopen the case. See In re Owens, No.
05-17-00919-CV, 2017 WL 4230840, at *1-2 (Tex. App.-Dallas
Sept. 25, 2017, no pet.) (mem. op.). The district court
granted Owens's motion to reopen, and Alexander again
moved to dismiss Owens's petition both on jurisdictional
and preclusive grounds.
district court held a hearing on Alexander's motion in
December 2017. At the hearing, Owens argued that, because the
district court purportedly had dominant jurisdiction to
resolve the issues in his case, he did not think res judicata
should apply. He added that he was seeking to assert claims
that predated McGowan's death and thus should not have
been implicated in the probate proceedings. More
specifically, he told the court that Alexander transferred
property under a fraudulent power of attorney, before
McGowan's death, and if "the property is restored to
the estate, now I'm the heir of that estate because we
would perhaps also decide that issue as well from the
documents that I have."
district court explained to Owens that it lacked jurisdiction
over his claims and that he could not mount a collateral
attack on ...