Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
from the 159th District Court of Angelina County, Texas
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
T. WORTHEN, CHIEF JUSTICE
Aviation, Inc. (Hutch) appeals the judgment entered against
it in favor of Sharon L. Teal and Mike Templeton. It presents
four issues on appeal. We affirm.
2014, Templeton was in the process of purchasing an aircraft
from Teal. In August 2014, Templeton took the plane to Hutch
seeking maintenance and repairs, including an annual
inspection and an airworthiness certificate. Jeffrey Shives
oversaw the maintenance of the aircraft. He spoke with
Templeton and agreed to perform the required maintenance.
When he determined certain work needed to be done, Shives
contacted Templeton who would approve the service. Shives
would then tell Templeton the cost, and Templeton provided
September 2014, Shives began compiling an invoice for the
maintenance performed on the airplane. The invoice was
completed after Hutch concluded its work on the aircraft,
which Shives testified to be either November 2014 or January
2015. The invoice included $1, 250 for hangar rent and $2,
400 for the annual inspection. Hutch sent the invoice to Teal
because Teal was the registered owner of the airplane.
Templeton did not see the invoice until September 2015.
Templeton stated that he did not agree to pay hangar rent and
disputed the amount charged for the annual inspection.
August 2015, the airport evicted Hutch from the hangar in
which it was storing Teal's and Templeton's airplane.
The airport's airplane manager removed Hutch's lock
and placed a new one on the hangar. When Templeton later
learned that Hutch was behind on its hangar rent, he paid $2,
270 to the airport. On September 28, Shives wrote a letter to
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in which he
requested a lien be placed on the airplane.
June 2015 until January 2016, Templeton inquired about the
status of the airplane's repairs. Templeton further
stated that he wished to discuss the invoice, come to an
agreement, pay for the amount owed, and acquire the
airplane's logbooks. However, that never occurred. Hutch
believed it was entitled to the balance of the invoice, which
totaled $8, 876.14. Templeton believed he should not have to
pay the hangar rent and should be credited for the amount he
paid the airport on behalf of Hutch. He believed he owed $5,
356.14 to Hutch.
several months of the parties failing to reach an agreement
regarding the invoice, Hutch filed suit against Teal and
Templeton. In its petition, Hutch alleged breach of contract,
promissory estoppel, suit on a sworn account, quantum meruit,
unjust enrichment, conversion, fraud, negligent
misrepresentation, and breach of the peace. Teal and
Templeton counterclaimed for conversion of the logbooks and a
declaratory judgment that the lien is invalid. Both parties
sought attorney's fees.
trial, the jury found that Hutch performed maintenance and
repair services to the aircraft on an open account and that
the prices charged were customary and reasonable (breach of
contract). However, the jury answered zero when asked what
amount of money would compensate Hutch for Teal's and
Templeton's failure to pay. The jury also found that
Hutch substantially relied to its detriment on a promise by
Teal and Templeton to pay (quantum meruit) and awarded $5,
356.14 in damages. The jury further found that Hutch did not
hold a mechanic's lien with the FAA and that Hutch
wrongfully exercised control and dominion over the logbooks.
The jury also answered the questions regarding attorney's
fees for both parties, awarding fees to Hutch in the amount
of $26, 451.58 and fees to Teal and Templeton in the amount
of $22, 425.00.
several motions filed by both sides and a hearing, the trial
court entered judgment that Hutch take nothing on its breach
of contract claim and disregarded the jury's quantum
meruit findings. The trial court also entered a declaratory
judgment in favor of Teal and Templeton, awarded them
possession of the logbooks, and awarded them attorney's
fees of $22, 425.00. Hutch filed a motion for new trial,
which was overruled by operation of law. This appeal
first issue, Hutch argues the trial court erred in
disregarding the jury's findings regarding quantum
meruit. According to Hutch, the findings could be reconciled
with the jury's findings regarding the open account and
the trial court should have entered judgment in favor of
Hutch on its quantum meruit claim.
of Review and Applicable Law
court may disregard a jury finding only if it is unsupported
by the evidence or if the issue is immaterial. Spencer v.
Eagle Star Ins. Co. of Am., 876 S.W.2d 154, 157 (Tex.
1994). A question is immaterial when it should have been
submitted or when it was properly submitted but has been
rendered immaterial by other findings. Id. A finding
is immaterial when the corresponding question either: (1)
should not have been submitted; (2) calls for a finding
beyond the province of the jury, such as a question of law;
or (3) was properly submitted but has been rendered
immaterial by other findings. Se. Pipe Line Co. v.
Tichacek, 997 S.W.2d 166, 172 (Tex. 1999);
Spencer, 876 S.W.2d at 157.
review the grant or denial of a motion for judgment
notwithstanding the verdict or a motion to disregard jury
findings as a legal-sufficiency challenge. See City of
Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 823 (Tex. 2005). We
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdict, crediting favorable evidence if reasonable jurors
could do so and disregarding contrary evidence unless
reasonable jurors could not. Id. at 827; see
Tiller v. McLure, 121 S.W.3d 709, 713 (Tex. 2003)
(holding that, in reviewing "no evidence" point,
court views evidence in light that tends to support finding
of disputed fact and disregards all evidence and inferences
to contrary). To sustain a challenge to the legal sufficiency
of the evidence supporting a jury finding, the reviewing
court must find that (1) there is a complete lack of evidence
of a vital fact; (2) the court is barred by rules of law or
of evidence from giving weight to the only evidence offered
to prove a vital fact; (3) there is no more than a mere
scintilla of evidence to prove a vital fact; or (4) the
evidence conclusively established the opposite of a vital
fact. Volkswagen of Am., Inc. v. Ramirez, 159 S.W.3d
897, 903 (Tex. 2004).
meruit is an equitable theory of recovery that is based on an
implied agreement to pay for benefits received.
Heldenfels Bros., Inc. v. City of Corpus Christi,
832 S.W.2d 39, 41 (Tex. 1992). To recover in quantum meruit,
a claimant must prove that (1) valuable services were
rendered or materials furnished; (2) for the person sought to
be charged; (3) and were accepted by the person sought to be
charged; (4) under circumstances that reasonably notified the
person sought to be charged that the plaintiff, in performing
the services or furnishing the materials, expected to be paid
by the person sought to be charged. Weaver v. Jamar,
383 S.W.3d 805, 811 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, no
pet.). The measure of recovery for quantum meruit is the
reasonable value of the services. Hudson v. Cooper,
162 S.W.3d 685, 688 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, no
meruit implies a contract in circumstances where the parties
neglected to form one, but equity nonetheless requires
payment for beneficial services rendered and knowingly
accepted. In re Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 166
S.W.3d 732, 740 (Tex. 2005). As a result, "[a] party
generally cannot recover under quantum meruit where
there is a valid contract covering the services or materials
furnished." Id.; see also Truly v. Austin, 744
S.W.2d 934, 936 (Tex. 1988); Gen. Homes, Inc. v.
Denison, 625 S.W.2d 794, 796 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 1981, no writ) (describing the rule as "well
settled law"). When the parties themselves create a
valid contract, there can be no recovery under a contract
implied by law. Union Bldg. Corp. v. J & J Bldg.
& Maint. Contractors, Inc., 578 S.W.2d 519, 520
(Tex. Civ. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1979, writ ref'd
n.r.e.). The jury must determine any contested fact issues
that would bear on a quantum meruit claim, but the ultimate
question "of how much, if any, equitable relief should
be awarded, must be determined by the trial court."
Hudson, 162 S.W.3d at 688.
argues on appeal that the jury's findings on quantum
meruit were not rendered immaterial by the findings that
Hutch and Templeton had an open account. Specifically, it
urges that the finding that an open account existed does not
necessarily establish the existence of an express contract.
It further contends that the jury's findings on quantum
meruit can be reconciled with the open ...