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Silver v. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

October 16, 2019

Frederick O. SILVER, Appellant
v.
TOYOTA MOTOR MANUFACTURING TEXAS, INC. and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Appellees

          From the 131st Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2019-CI-05365 Honorable Rosie Alvarado, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Beth Watkins, Justice Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         Appellant Frederick O. Silver appeals the trial court's June 5, 2019 Order on Ability to Pay Costs. After considering the parties' briefs, the appellate record, and Silver's October 8, 2019 "Motion in Support of Reply Brief of Appellant Frederick O. Silver," we affirm the trial court's order.[1]

         Background

         On March 15, 2019, Silver filed an affidavit of inability to pay costs in the trial court. In his affidavit, he declared that he did not receive any public benefits and did not have any dependents. He also stated that he had no monthly income and had $1, 780 in monthly expenses. On April 5, 2019, the trial court ordered Silver to correct or clarify his affidavit because it "did not contain proof of [Silver's] income or how the household is financially supported." The court ordered Silver to provide specific financial documentation, including two recent paystubs, W-2s, or 1099s, and give a reasonable explanation of how he and his household "live and are supported." The court warned Silver that if he did not comply with the order, it would hold an evidentiary hearing on the matter.

         On April 11, 2019, Silver filed a second affidavit of inability to pay costs. That second affidavit declared that Silver had one dependent, received food stamp benefits, and had "applied for power bill assistance and rent assistance." It also stated that Silver "do[es] not have a job" and had no monthly income but had $2, 035 in monthly expenses. The only documentation attached to Silver's second affidavit was a single paystub dated March 8, 2019, which shows that when that paystub was issued, Silver's net pay every two weeks was $1, 442.78.

         On June 5, 2019, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing "for the purposes of determining if [Silver] is unable to afford costs pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 145." When Silver testified during that hearing, he insisted that he was entitled to be shown "a sworn testament that [his] evidence that's on [his] claim is false" before he could be required to present evidence. He then testified that he receives no income or public assistance other than $190 a month in food stamp benefits; that he is unemployed; that no one who contributes to paying his monthly expenses lives with him; and that he does not have any other jobs or sources of income. He also testified, however, that "[his] bills are being met," but he refused to give the trial court any further details, and he refused to answer the trial court's questions about whether he had been terminated or had voluntarily resigned from the job for which he received the March 8, 2019 paystub. When the trial court asked Silver how he was paying the monthly expenses listed in his affidavit, he responded, "[I]t's none of your business, Judge. Because there is no law that requires me to give you that information."

         On June 5, 2019, the trial court signed an Order on Ability to Afford Costs. That order noted that the court considered, inter alia, "the affidavits on file . . . the evidence presented and the lack of evidence provided, [and] the argument of [Silver]"; found that that Silver "is able to afford the costs of court"; and ordered Silver to pay the costs he had incurred in the underlying lawsuit within 60 days of the order. Silver appealed that order to this court.

         After Silver filed his notice of appeal, he filed two additional affidavits of inability to pay costs. However, he has not argued that his circumstances have materially changed since the trial court issued its order. Tex.R.App.P. 20.1(b)(3). Although appellees Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc. and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. did not contest Silver's affidavits in the trial court, they have filed a brief arguing that Silver did not meet his burden to show that he could not afford to pay costs.

         Analysis

         Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's ruling on a claim of inability to pay costs for abuse of discretion. See In re J.P.N., No. 04-17-00633-CV, 2018 WL 626526, at *1 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Jan. 31, 2018, no pet.) (mem. op.).

         Applicabl ...


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