Appeal from the 61st District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2014-06739.
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jewell and
Thompson Frost Chief Justice.
Tracey Renee Lewis and Rodney Edward Thomas, defendants in
the trial court, appeal the trial court's judgment in
favor of appellee/intervenor Steven Sunde. Finding no merit
in appellants' jurisdictional challenge and no merits in
appellants' other complaints, we affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
bench trial, the district court signed a judgment reciting
that Sunde had appeared pro se for trial, that Lewis and
Thomas also had appeared pro se for trial, and that another
named defendant, Encompass 2 Commercial Corporation, did not
appear for trial. According to the judgment, after the trial
court heard evidence and arguments of the parties, the trial
court found that Sunde was entitled to judgment against
Encompass, Lewis, and Thomas on Sunde's claims, and
awarded Sunde a judgment in the amount of $482, 202 against
Lewis, Thomas, and Encompass, jointly and severally.
filed a "Motion to Vacate and Set Aside Judgment,"
arguing that the parties were bound to resolve their claims
through arbitration under a valid arbitration agreement.
Thomas also challenged the court's jurisdiction based on
the alleged arbitration agreement. The trial court denied the
motion, and Lewis and Thomas each have prosecuted this appeal
Issues and Analysis
Thomas and Lewis each filed an appellate brief, their briefs
are substantially the same. Liberally construing the
complaints from arguments set out in their appellate briefs,
we conclude Lewis and Thomas raise the following issues: (1)
the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, both
generally and specifically as a consequence of the alleged
arbitration agreement covering the claims; (2) the trial
court erred when it did not make any findings of fact; and
(3) the trial court abused its discretion in denying the
"Motion to Vacate and Set Aside Judgment."
Did Sunde lack standing to bring his claims, or was there
some other impediment preventing the trial court from
exercising subject matter jurisdiction over the
and Thomas make a variety of statements contesting
Sunde's standing and the trial court's subject matter
jurisdiction. Some relate to an alleged arbitration
agreement while others are generic. We consider both
categories. See Meyers v. JDC/Firethorne, Ltd., 548
S.W.3d 477, 484 (Tex. 2018) (explaining that subject-matter
jurisdiction cannot be waived and that "[a] court
can-and if in doubt, must-raise standing on its own at any
time"). An issue implicating a court's
subject-matter jurisdiction presents a question of law that
we review de novo. City of Houston v. Rhule, 417
S.W.3d 440, 442 (Tex. 2013) (per curiam).
considering Lewis's and Thomas's arbitration-related
jurisdictional contentions, we presume, without deciding,
that a valid arbitration agreement existed between the
parties. Lewis and Thomas have not cited, and we have not
found, any binding authority to support their contention that
the existence of an arbitration clause divests a trial court
of its jurisdiction over the claim subject to the arbitration
agreement. Contrary to their argument, this court has found
that the existence of an arbitration clause covering claims
filed in a court does not divest the court of jurisdiction
over the action. In re China Oil & Gas Pipeline
Bureau, 94 S.W.3d 50, 61 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.]
2002, orig. proceeding).
courts regularly exercise jurisdiction over parties to an
arbitration agreement. See FIA Card Services, N.A. v.
Sweet, 14-08-00111-CV, 2009 WL 1748741, at *2 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] June 23, 2009, no pet.) (finding
that the trial court erred in dismissing for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction action to confirm and enforce arbitration
award brought under the Federal Arbitration Act in state
court). Neither subject-matter jurisdiction nor standing can
be waived or conferred by agreement. Houston Laureate
Associates, Ltd. v. Russell, 504 S.W.3d 550, 556 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet.). By contrast, an
agreement to arbitrate, like any contract, can be waived.
Perry Homes v. Cull, 258 S.W.3d 580, 593 (Tex.
consider appellants' generic challenges to the judgment
on lack-of-subject-matter-jurisdiction and lack-of-standing
grounds. In his petition in intervention Sunde sets out a
fraud claim against Lewis and Thomas. The record does not
reflect that any party asserted special exceptions against
Sunde's petition in intervention, and liberally
construing that pleading in Sunde's favor, we conclude
that Sunde had standing to assert the claims in this