Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court

No. 13-0236
TAMES

WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. v. PATRICK O’BRIEN MURPHY A/K/A O’BRIEN MURPHY AND BEVERLY MURPHY

Oral argument was held on October 15, 2014. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on February 6, 2015. It then denied rehearing on June 5, 2015 File Closed

In the news...

Tracking 2 articles about this case.

June 20, 2014

Eight sets of opinions, one grant [Jun. 20, 2014]

from SCOTXblog

This article also mentions 10 other cases.

The Court has issued opinions:

June 16, 2014

Three opinions, one grant [Jun. 13, 2014]

from SCOTXblog

This article also mentions 18 other cases.

Opinion

February 6, 2015

Green
Hecht
Willett
Guzman
Lehrmann
Boyd
Devine
Brown

Justice Green delivered the opinion of the CourtView Electronic Briefs | Oral Argument | Video . PDF

 

Court of Appeals

Appellate District:14th Court of Appeals
Outcome Below:Aff/Pt and Rev & Rem/Pt
COA Docket No.:14-11-00560-CV
Opinion Author:Honorable Margaret Garner Mirabal

Trial Court

Trial Court:55th District Court
County:Harris
Trial Judge:Honorable Jeffrey A. Shadwick
Trial Docket:2008-67808

Entries on SCOTX Orders Lists

Docket Entries

Date Event Outcome  
2015-07-16 Case Stored  
2015-06-05 Motion for Rehearing - Disposed   Denied with Justice not sitting.
2015-06-05 Mandate issued  
  This case was waiting for a decision about a pending motion for rehearing between April 9, 2015 and June 5, 2015.  
2015-04-09 Call received  
2015-04-08 Motion for Rehearing  
2015-04-08 Case forwarded to Court
2015-03-10 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing disposed   Filing granted
2015-02-25 Electronic communication sent to Party  
2015-02-25 Electronic communication received from Party  
2015-02-24 Notice requesting filing fee  
2015-02-24 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
2015-02-20 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing  
2015-02-06 Opinion issued   Court of Appeals' judgment reversed & judgment rendered
2015-02-06 Court approved judgment sent to attorneys of record Issued
  This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between October 15, 2014 and February 6, 2015.  
2014-10-15 Oral argument  
2014-09-05 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
2014-09-02 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
  This case was waiting for oral argument between June 20, 2014 and September 2, 2014.  
2014-06-20 Petition for Review granted
2014-06-20 Case set for oral argument   Case set for oral argument
2014-06-20 Petition for Review disposed Filing granted
2014-05-19 Reply Brief (Petitioner)  
2014-05-06 Call received  
2014-05-05 Brief on the Merits (Respondent)  
2014-04-15 Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)  
2014-03-21 Miscellaneous motion disposed. See Remarks.   Filing granted
2014-03-12 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2014-03-11 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2014-03-11 Motion to Substitute filed  
2014-02-18 Case Record Filed  
2014-02-14 Brief on the Merits Requested  
2014-02-14 Record Requested in Petition for Review  
2014-02-11 Notice of Appearance  
2014-01-22 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
  This case was waiting for a decision about briefing or a possible grant between November 19, 2013 and January 22, 2014.  
2013-11-19 Call received  
2013-11-15 Call received  
2013-10-18 Referral to Pro Bono Program - Letter sent to All Counsel of Record and Program Liason  
2013-09-20 Reply to Response (Petitioner)  
2013-09-10 Response to Petition (Respondent)  
2013-07-29 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response disposed   Filing granted
2013-07-25 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response  
2013-07-12 Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response  
2013-06-04 Case forwarded to Court
2013-04-29 Petition for Review (Petitioner)  
2013-04-01 Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review disposed   Filing granted
2013-03-29 Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review filed  

Parties

Party Counsel Role
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Mr. Christopher Benjamin Dove
Mr. Derrick Bryan Carson
Mr. Robert T. Mowrey
Mr. Daniel John Pettit
Mr. W. Scott Hastings
Petitioner
Murphy, Patrick O'Brien
Mr. Bertrand C. Moser
Mr. Patrick O'Brien Murphy
Respondent
Murphy, Beverly
Mr. Bertrand C. Moser
Ms. Beverly Murphy
Respondent
 

Making a UDJA claim to stave off foreclosure can subject you to paying the lender’s attorney’s fees

When Wells Fargo began a foreclosure process on a home-equity loan, this homeowner fought by back filing what the Court calls a “separate and original proceeding” (a phrase that will come into play in its reasoning). In that separate suit, the homeowners sought injunctive relief, asserted fraud claims, and sought relief under the UDJA. Wells Fargo, in response, sought its own declaration and asked for attorney’s fees under the UDJA.

The trial court ultimately ruled for Wells Fargo and awarded it attorney’s fees under the UDJA. The homeowners appealed, arguing that Wells Fargo did not assert a valid declaratory claim. The court of appeals agreed — but to strike down the fees, it had to go a step further. Either side can recover under the UDJA, so to reverse the award, the court of appeals also had to determine whether the homeowners had a valid UDJA claim. It concluded that neither side had a valid UDJA claim and, thus, that there was no basis for a fee award.

The Supreme Court reversed. On the procedural question, it ruled that the homeowners' challenge to the award was fatally incomplete. Because they had not challenged whether his own UDJA claim was valid, the court of appeals could not reach that question sua sponte. And, thus, the basis for the court of appeals’s ruling was invalid.

That led to a constitutional question: Can a lender recover attorney’s fees in this situation, consistent with Texas’s constitutional provisions about home-equity lending?

The Court held that the key was that this was a “separate and original proceeding.” Rather than defending the lender’s original suit (in which, the Court suggests, no fees would have been available), the homeowners filed this separate proceeding.

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