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Educap, Inc. v. Mendoza

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

September 27, 2019

Educap, Inc., Appellant
v.
Stephanie L. Mendoza, Appellee

          FROM THE 21ST DISTRICT COURT OF BASTROP COUNTY, NO. 174-21, THE HONORABLE CARSON TALMADGE CAMPBELL, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Kelly and Smith.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARI L. KELLY, JUSTICE

         This appeal arises from a suit filed by Educap, Inc. against Stephanie L. Mendoza for breach of a student loan agreement. Following a bench trial, the trial court signed a take-nothing judgment in favor of Mendoza. In three issues, Educap asserts that the trial court erred in denying its motion for summary judgment, in refusing to admit certain evidence at trial, and in denying its motion for new trial. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         In November 2015, Educap filed suit against Mendoza seeking to collect what it alleges are unpaid amounts due under a student loan made to Mendoza in 2005. Educap later filed a combined traditional and no-evidence motion for summary judgment. In support of its motion for summary judgment, Educap attached the affidavit of Susan Martin, a "Legal Collections Coordinator" for Educap. In paragraph one of her affidavit, Martin states:

My name is Susan Martin, I am employed as Legal Collections Coordinator for Plaintiff. I have personal knowledge of the following facts which are true and correct. In my capacity as Legal Collections Coordinator, I have been designated as records custodian for Educap, Inc. I have personal knowledge of the record keeping methods that relate to the account of Stephanie L. Mendoza. Educap, Inc. is authorized to collect the account of Stephanie L. Mendoza. Attached hereto are pages of records kept on this account by Educap, Inc. These pages of said records are kept by Educap, Inc. in the regular course of business and it is the regular course of business of Educap, Inc. for an employee or representative of Educap, Inc with knowledge of the act, event, condition, opinion, or diagnosis recorded to make the record or to transmit information thereof to be included in such record and the records were made at or near the time or reasonably soon thereafter. The pages of records attached hereto are the originals or exact duplicate of the originals.

         Educap attached eleven pages of documents to Martin's affidavit, including a document entitled "combined private education loan application and promissory note, " signed by Mendoza and identifying "5StarBank" as the lender, as well as a check issued by "5StarBank."

         In seven additional paragraphs in her affidavit, Martin testifies to matters unrelated to Educap's recordkeeping methods. Instead, in these paragraphs, Martin makes factual statements related to Educap's underlying breach-of-promissory-note claim against Mendoza. In general, Martin states that Mendoza was required to make monthly payments on the promissory note, that she defaulted on her payments and currently owes $29, 406.91, and that Educap is the owner and holder of the note.

         Mendoza responded to Educap's combined motion for summary judgment by, in part, objecting to the trial court's consideration of Martin's affidavit. Mendoza argued that the documents attached to Martin's affidavit were unauthenticated and inadmissible hearsay and that the affidavit failed to establish the business records exception to the hearsay rule. See Tex. R. Evid. 801(d) (hearsay rule), R. 803(6) (business records exception). Mendoza also objected to Martin's affidavit on the ground that it included "unsupported conclusions and factual claims" for which Martin had not demonstrated personal knowledge. In a written order, the trial court denied Mendoza's objections and denied Educap's motion for summary judgment.

         At the bench trial that followed, Educap did not offer any live witnesses. Instead, Educap offered into evidence Martin's affidavit and the attached documents. Mendoza again objected to the affidavit and documents as inadmissible hearsay. In response, Educap argued that Martin's entire affidavit and the documents attached to it were admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. The trial court sustained Mendoza's objection, and Educap offered no other evidence. The trial court signed a take-nothing judgment in favor of Mendoza.

         Educap now raises three issues on appeal.

         ANALYSIS

         Motion for ...


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