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Redmond Legal Group, PLLC v. Chatman

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

August 27, 2019

REDMOND LEGAL GROUP, PLLC, AND JERRY REDMOND, JR., Appellants
v.
CARLISS CHATMAN AND MITRA WOODY, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 152nd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2014-09477

          Panel consists of Justices Wise, Jewell and Poissant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Margaret "Meg" Poissant, Justice.

         Appellants Redmond Legal Group, PLLC, and Jerry Redmond, Jr., bring this appeal from the trial court's order of May 15, 2017, granting a motion for sanctions in favor of appellees Carliss Chatman and Mitra Woody and dismissing appellants' claims with prejudice. We reverse and remand.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The underlying suit began in February 2014 when Redmond Legal Group, PLLC, ("RLG") and Jerry Redmond, Jr., ("Redmond") filed their original petition against Carliss Chatman and Mitra Woody, former contract attorneys for RLG. Chatman and Woody counterclaimed. Eventually, the matter was set for trial during a two-week period beginning January 18, 2016.

         On January 5, 2016, counsel for Redmond filed a motion seeking a continuance or abatement of trial based on an e-mail from Redmond with a physician's letter attached, which stated: "due to injury, Redmond is not able to travel from Georgia or appear at trial." Redmond's counsel attempted to contact her client but was unsuccessful. The letter, dated December 18, 2015, is signed "Dr. Debra Hyber" (hereinafter the "Hyber letter"). In the top right-hand corner is the following:

Dr. Debra Hyber, DO
Holcomb Medical
476 Mansell Rd
Roswell, Georgia 30076

         The Hyber letter states Redmond was injured in November 2015, necessitating "medical treatment and stay, and rehabilitative therapy . . .." Further, the Hyber letter states Redmond continues to receive rehabilitative therapy "and is unable to travel until he is reevaluated and possibly released by me during his next visit in late January 2016." In June 2016, Chatman and Woody moved for sanctions alleging the Hyber letter was fraudulent and was submitted to delay trial and give Redmond more time to respond to discovery.

         On December 20, 2016, a status conference was held. The hearing record reflects that appellants' trial counsel informed the trial court that the Hyber letter was "false." She stated the letter was not written by the doctor and there was no clinic at that address. According to counsel, "Everything about the letter is a falsity." The trial court asked, "you are saying to me that this letter was presented to you by your client is a fraud?" To which trial counsel relied, "Yes." The trial court expressed concern that a fraud upon the Court had been committed. The trial setting was cancelled, and an evidentiary hearing planned for January. The trial court stated it was "on the table" as to whether appellants' pleading would be struck, and the case dismissed. The trial court said, "I will want to see evidence that Mr. Redmond was in the hospital at the time we are discussing here."

         On January 3, 2017, a hearing was held on the motion for sanctions. On February 6, 2017, the trial court signed an order directing Redmond to provide his counsel with the name of the hospital(s) that treated him for the alleged injury he suffered in November 2015 no later than February 10, 2017. Further, Redmond's counsel was ordered to then obtain records "from the identified hospital(s) in ...


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