Appeal from the 80th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2018-67225
consists of Justices Keyes, Goodman, and Kelly.
underlying suit, an ex-husband, Justin Haynes, sued his
ex-wife, her father, and her attorney for statements the
attorney made in the divorce proceeding in connection with
his client's request for attorney's fees. The
attorney, Eric Lipper, filed a hybrid motion to dismiss the
suit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act and Texas
Rule of Civil Procedure 91a, which the trial court denied.
challenges the denial of his motion on both grounds. In his
interlocutory appeal under the TCPA, Lipper contends that (1)
he demonstrated that the TCPA applies to Haynes's claims
against him, (2) Haynes failed to establish a prima facie
case on the elements of his claims, and (3) he satisfied his
burden to show that he is immune from liability to Haynes
under the doctrine of attorney immunity. Lipper's
petition for writ of mandamus seeks relief from the trial
court's denial of his motion under Rule
conclude that Lipper proved his entitlement to dismissal
under the TCPA and, accordingly, reverse the trial
court's order and remand the case for further proceedings
under that statute. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code § 27.009. We dismiss the petition for writ of
mandamus as moot.
the marriage between Haynes and J.P. Bryan's daughter,
Alicia Bryan, Haynes asked J.P. for a loan to assist him in
purchasing a condominium. J.P. loaned the money to Haynes
under a promissory note. The parties eventually came to
dispute when Haynes was required to satisfy the debt.
Alicia filed for divorce from Haynes, J.P. sued Haynes in a
separate proceeding on the unpaid note. Lipper represented
Alicia in the divorce proceeding and J.P. in the suit on the
and Haynes reached a settlement in the suit on the note,
under which each party agreed to bear its own attorney's
fees and costs. In the divorce proceeding, the court held a
bench trial. Lipper presented a request for attorney's
fees during the trial, supported by redacted billing records.
In cross-examining Lipper on the billing entries,
Haynes's attorney identified a billing entry that
pertained to Lipper's representation of J.P. in the suit
on the note. In response, Lipper acknowledged the error.
alleges that despite Lipper's acknowledgment that the
entry pertained to his work for J.P. in the suit on the note,
Lipper never corrected the billing statements on file. The
divorce court's judgment awarded Alicia her reasonable
and necessary attorney's fees based on the fees requested
without adjusting for the billing error.
did not challenge the attorney's fee award on this ground
in his appeal of the divorce judgment. Instead, he brought
this suit against Lipper, J.P., and Alicia, claiming breach
of contract, tortious interference, and conspiracy.