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Reagan v. Nationsgas Partners, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

August 21, 2019

ROBERT J. REAGAN, Appellant
v.
NATIONSGAS PARTNERS, LLC; ROBERT F. MILLER, JR.; AND SHAWN MILLER, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 162nd Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-17-13584

          Before Justices Myers, Molberg, [1] and Carlyle

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LANA MYERS JUSTICE

         Robert J. Reagan appeals the summary judgment granted in favor of NationsGas Partners, LLC, Robert F. Miller, Jr., and Shawn Miller on his claims for breach of contract, quantum meruit, and fraudulent transfer.[2] Reagan brings two issues on appeal contending the trial court erred by granting the motion for summary judgment on his causes of action for breach of contract and quantum meruit. NationsGas and the Millers bring one issue requesting damages under Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 45 because Reagan's appeal is frivolous. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Robert Miller is the manager of NationsGas. His wife, Shawn Miller, is a member of NationsGas. In 2013, NationsGas hired attorney Carl Adams to represent it in a lawsuit against a former employee who had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars (Sanchez lawsuit). Robert Miller signed Adams's attorney-client agreement as the manager of NationsGas. The agreement stated that NationsGas would advance money to Adams or reimburse Adams for expenses he incurred, including "expert witness and consultant fees . . . and any other expense related to the Attorney's efforts on behalf of Client." NationsGas promised to reimburse Adams for the expenses within ten days of a written request by Adams. The agreement also permitted Adams "to associate with other attorneys to aid in the investigation and/or prosecution of this claim," but Adams was responsible for paying those attorneys.

         Two weeks before the trial in the Sanchez lawsuit, Adams asked Reagan, who is an attorney, to create a computer-generated visual presentation to aid in presenting evidence to the jury. Reagan spent 31.5 hours on the case before trial, and his staff spent another 26.5 hours on the case. On the first day of the trial, Reagan presented his pre-trial invoice to Adams and Shawn Miller for $10, 082.20.

         During the week-long trial, Reagan operated the audio-visual equipment in the courtroom. In his subsequent invoice to NationsGas, he stated he made a "Court appearance to assist with trial. Arrange[d] exhibits, research, consultation, and present[ed] graphic evidence," The invoice also states he "[c]onsult[ed] on jury selection," "[c]onsult[ed] regarding jury charge" and his staff "[r]esearch[ed] case law to ascertain viability of 'Willful Blindness' Jury Instruction." The invoice states he spent 34.05 hours on the trial and that his staff spent 3.4 hours. The evidence also showed Reagan engaged in other tasks not listed on the invoices, including attending conferences in the trial judge's chambers and receiving the jury verdict when Adams was not present on the last day of the trial. Reagan presented his invoice for his services during the trial for $7, 320.

         Reagan addressed his invoices to NationsGas, care of Adams. NationsGas refused to pay Reagan. Reagan filed suit against NationsGas for breach of contract and quantum meruit.[3]NationsGas moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The standard for reviewing a traditional summary judgment is well established. See McAfee, Inc. v. Agilysys, Inc., 316 S.W.3d 820, 825 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). The movant has the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c). In deciding whether a disputed material fact issue exists precluding summary judgment, evidence favorable to the nonmovant will be taken as true. In re Estate of Berry, 280 S.W.3d 478, 480 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2009, no pet.). Every reasonable inference must be indulged in favor of the nonmovant and any doubts resolved in its favor. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 824 (Tex. 2005). We review a summary judgment de novo to determine whether a party's right to prevail is established as a matter of law. Dickey v. Club Corp., 12 S.W.3d 172, 175 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2000, pet. denied).

         BREACH OF CONTRACT

         In his first issue, Reagan contends the trial court erred by granting NationsGas's motion for summary judgment on his claim for breach of contract. NationsGas's motion for summary judgment asserts there was no contract requiring it to pay Reagan for his services.

         The controversy in this issue includes the interplay of two provisions in the attorney-client agreement between Adams and NationsGas. Section 4 of the agreement concerned NationsGas's duty to advance payment ...


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