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Shrader & Associates, L.L.P. v. Carrasco

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

September 24, 2019

SHRADER & ASSOCIATES, L.L.P., Appellant
v.
CRISSY CARRASCO AND DAVID CARRASCO, JR., Appellees

          On Appeal from the 295th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2018-57553

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Goodman, and Landau.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Gordon Goodman Justice.

         Shrader & Associates, L.L.P. filed a declaratory judgment action seeking an order compelling Crissy Carrasco and David Carrasco, Jr. to arbitrate their legal malpractice claim against the firm. The Carrascos disputed personal jurisdiction. The trial court agreed with the Carrascos and dismissed the firm's suit. We affirm.

          BACKGROUND

         Malpractice Suit

         The Carrascos, California residents who have no contacts with Texas, retained Shrader & Associates, a Texas law firm, to represent them in a personal-injury matter. After the statute of limitations had expired as to the personal-injury claim and without filing suit, the law firm informed the Carrascos that it would be unable to represent them or pursue litigation on their behalf and therefore ended its representation of the Carrascos. The Carrascos then sued the firm in California state court, alleging legal malpractice.

         Declaratory Judgment Action

         Shrader & Associates filed this declaratory judgment action against the Carrascos seeking an order compelling arbitration of their legal malpractice claim. The firm alleged that the Carrascos had signed a fee agreement containing a mandatory arbitration clause as to any attorney-client disputes.

In relevant part, the fee agreement's arbitration clause states:
XVII. Arbitration. Any disagreement, dispute, claim or cause of action arising pursuant to the performance of this agreement shall be resolved through binding arbitration. The arbitration shall take place before a panel of three (3) arbitrators in conformance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association in Houston, Harris County, Texas.[1]

         It is undisputed that the Carrascos signed the fee agreement and that a representative of Shrader & Associates did not do so despite a separate signature block for the firm. Above the parties' signature blocks, the agreement provides that, "This Attorney-

         Fee Contract was entered into on ______." The blank provided for the date of execution is empty.

         The Carrascos filed a special appearance contesting personal jurisdiction. Shrader & Associates responded that the trial court had personal jurisdiction over the Carrascos for the limited purpose of compelling arbitration because the fee ...


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