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Barnes v. Renters Warehouse Professional Landlords of Houston

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

August 22, 2019

DARYL BARNES AND DEMEATRICE GOFF, Appellants
v.
RENTERS WAREHOUSE PROFESSIONAL LANDLORDS OF HOUSTON, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 334th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2018-60432.

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Wise and Hassan.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         This is an attempted appeal from an order signed by the trial court on February 25, 2019, regarding the motion to reinstate filed by plaintiffs/appellants Daryl Barnes and Demeatrice Goff ("Order Regarding Reinstatement").

         Background

         Plaintiffs initiated the underlying suit on September 6, 2018 by filing an original petition seeking to enjoin defendant Renters Warehouse Professional Landlords of Houston from evicting them. They also filed an affidavit of inability to pay costs. The trial court granted a temporary restraining order the following day and scheduled a hearing for September 21, 2018. Because defendant had not been served by September 21, 2018, plaintiffs passed that hearing. Service was made on October 3, 2018.

         The trial court signed a second temporary restraining order on October 18, 2018 and scheduled a hearing for October 26, 2018. On the day of the hearing, defendant answered and moved to dissolve the temporary restraining order. Following an October 30, 2018 hearing on defendant's motion, the trial court signed an order dissolving the temporary restraining order.

         On November 14, 2018, plaintiffs set a hearing for their "Application for Court of Inquiry," which they had filed on October 3, 2018. The hearing was scheduled for November 16, 2018. Plaintiffs failed to appear for that hearing. The trial court signed an order that day dismissing the case for want of prosecution ("Order of Dismissal"). The Order of Dismissal states in its entirety: "The above referenced case is hereby Dismissed for Want of Prosecution for Plaintiffs['] failure to attend the hearings scheduled for November 16, 2018 in this cause."

         Plaintiffs filed a motion to reinstate on January 10, 2019, and they filed another one on January 25, 2019. They set the latter motion motions to be heard on February 25, 2019. The motion was not heard, but it is unclear if plaintiffs passed the hearing or the trial court cancelled it in light of signing the Order Regarding Reinstatement. In the Order Regarding Reinstatement, the trial court concludes:

Plaintiffs' Motion [to Reinstate] had to be filed within 30 days of the [November 16, 2018] dismissal and is accordingly untimely filed. For that reason, the Court's power to grant plaintiffs the relief they seek has expired and thus can not be granted.

         It appeared the Order of Dismissal was the appealable order, even though plaintiffs appealed from the Order Regarding Reinstatement. However, the Order Regarding Dismissal lacks decretal language.[1] We abated the appeal on June 11, 2019, to permit clarification by the trial court as to whether the Order of Dismissal was intended to be final. See Tex. R. App. P. 27.2; Lehmann v. Har-Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 206 (Tex. 2001).

         The trial court signed an order on July 15, 2019 ("the Order Regarding Finality"). The Order Regarding Finality indicates a hearing was scheduled to occur on June 28, 2019, in response to our abatement order, but plaintiffs did not appear. After recounting the procedural history of the case, the trial court concludes in the Order Regarding Finality: "To the extent, the Court of Appeals remains uncertain of this Court's intent, the Court opines that [the Order of Dismissal] was final."

         Analysis

         A judgment is final if it disposes of all parties and claims. Lehmann, 39 S.W.3d at 195. Because a final judgment need not be in any particular form, whether a judicial decree is a final judgment must be ...


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