Supreme Court of Texas Blog

No. 15-0146
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WAL-MART STORES, INCORPORATED v. DORIS FORTE, O.D., ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND ALL OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED PERSONS; BRIDGET LEESANG, O.D.; DAVID WIGGINS, O.D.; AND JOHN BOLDAN, O.D.

Oral argument was held on September 23, 2015. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on May 20, 2016. It then denied rehearing on September 23, 2016 File Closed

Opinions

May 20, 2016

Hecht
Green
Johnson
Guzman
Brown

Chief Justice Hecht delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Green, Justice Johnson, Justice Guzman, and Justice Brown joined. PDF

Boyd
Lehrmann
Devine

Justice Boyd delivered a dissenting opinion, in Part I of which Justice Lehrmann and Justice Devine joined. PDF

 

Court of Appeals

None

Trial Court

None

Docket Entries

Date Event Outcome  
2016-09-26 Case Stored  
2016-09-23 Motion for Rehearing - Disposed   Denied with Justice not sitting.
  This case was waiting for a decision about a pending motion for rehearing between July 12, 2016 and September 23, 2016.  
2016-07-12 Amicus Curiae Letter Received  
2016-07-06 Case forwarded to Court
2016-07-06 Motion for Rehearing  
2016-06-06 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing disposed (Appellee in case)   Filing granted
2016-06-06 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing (Appellee in case)  
2016-06-03 Letter sent to parties from Supreme Court - See Remarks  
2016-05-20 Opinion issued   Certified question answered by the Court
2016-05-20 Dissenting opinion issued.   Issued
2016-05-10 Motion to withdraw disposed of   Filing granted
2016-05-06 Motion to Withdraw Filed (Appellee in case)  
  This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between November 17, 2015 and May 6, 2016.  
2015-11-17 Amicus Curiae Letter Received  
  This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between September 23, 2015 and November 17, 2015.  
2015-09-23 Oral argument  
2015-09-22 Exhibits in case/cause filed (Appellee in case)  
2015-09-08 Reply Brief (Petitioner)  
2015-08-28 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
2015-08-25 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received (Appellant in case)  
2015-08-25 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received (Appellee in case)  
2015-08-17 Motion for Extension of Time disposed. (Appellant in case)   Filing granted
2015-08-17 Motion for extension of time to file brief. (Appellant in case)  
2015-08-14 Brief on the Merits (Appellee in case)  
2015-07-31 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
2015-07-27 Motion for extension of time to file brief. (Appellee in case)  
2015-07-27 Motion for Extension of Time disposed. (Respondent)   Filing granted
2015-07-17 Amicus Curiae Letter Received  
2015-07-10 Case set for oral argument   Case set for oral argument
2015-06-24 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
2015-06-23 Motion for extension of time to file brief. (Appellee in case)  
2015-06-23 Motion for Extension of Time disposed. (Petitioner)   Filing granted
2015-06-05 Brief on the Merits (Appellant in case)  
2015-05-28 Call received  
  This case was waiting for oral argument between April 3, 2015 and May 28, 2015.  
2015-04-03 Motion for extension of time to file brief. (Appellant in case)  
2015-04-03 Motion for Extension of Time disposed. (Appellant in case)   Filing granted
2015-03-30 Notice received (Appellee in case)  
2015-03-23 Motion for extension of time to file brief. (Appellant in case)  
2015-03-23 Motion for Extension of Time disposed. (Appellant in case)   Filing granted
2015-03-06 Certified Question disposed   Certified Question accepted
2015-03-06 Certified Question accepted
2015-03-06 Brief on the Merits Requested  
2015-02-27 Letter Filed (Appellant in case)  
2015-02-26 Letter Filed  
2015-02-24 Notice requesting filing fee
2015-02-23 Case Record Filed  
2015-02-23 Certified Question filed  

Parties

Party Counsel Role
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Mr. Sim Israeloff
Mr. Jim E. Cowles
Mr. James C. Ho
Mr. Ben A. Donnell
Mr. R. Michael Northrup
Mr. Prerak Shah
Appellant
Wiggins, David
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Russell S. Post
Appellee
Forte, Doris
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. Russell S. Post
Appellee
Leesang, Bridget
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. Russell S. Post
Appellee
Boldan, John
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Mr. Russell S. Post
Appellee
Rang, Ghassen Atashi
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Other Interested Party
Rivera, John
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Other Interested Party
Maslovitz, Bernard
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Other Interested Party
Hood, Marcus
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Other Interested Party
Brown, Sylvia
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Other Interested Party
Rast, Sherri Fauver
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Other Interested Party
Pham, Doan-Ahn
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. James Patrick Bell
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Other Interested Party
Mixon, Ron
Mr. J. A. (Tony) Canales
Mr. Hector Antonio Canales
Jack N. Boyd Jr.
Mr. Mark Clyde Burgess
Other Interested Party

Amici Curiae

Amicus Curiae Counsel
Dingman, Kyle
Mr. Kyle Dingman
The Texas Association of Business
Mr. Dale Wainwright
Jennifer Richards
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States
Jennifer Richards
Mr. Dale Wainwright
Texans for Lawsuit Reform
Mr. Hugh Rice Kelly
State of Texas
Mr. J. Campbell Barker
Mr. Bill Davis
Mr. Scott A. Keller
Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr.
Mr. Charles E. Roy
Texas Local Governments et al.
Mr. John Muir
Mr. Earnest W. Wotring
David George
Debra Baker
Simpson, Reagan W.
Mr. Reagan W. Simpson

Are civil penalties subject to Chapter 41's restrictions on exemplary damages?

civil penalties exemplary damages regulatory

Walmart included some terms in its leases with on-site optometrists relating to what hours the optometrists would be open. A group of those optometrists brought suit in federal court, alleging that this degree of control violated the Texas Optometry Act, which says that a retailer may not control the "manner of practice" of optometrists, specifically defining that prohibition to extend to "setting or attempting to influence ... office hours of an optometrist." Tex. Occ. Code §351.408. By statute, a person injured by a violation of this provision can sue for a civil penalty, not to exceed $1000 per day. The plaintiffs sought civil penalties; they did not seek other monetary relief.

The federal district court found a violation and awarded the four plaintiffs a total of $3.95 million in civil penalties, plus attorney's fees. The Fifth Circuit analyzed, and agreed with, the district court's reasoning that this is a violation of the statute. That aspect of the case has not been certified to the Texas Supreme Court.

The certified question involves Walmart's argument that this civil penalty violated Chapter 41 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which restricts exemplary damages to situations where a plaintiff also proves some other measure of actual damages.

As the Fifth Circuit's opinion explains the issue, this presents two discrete questions of statutory construction: (1) is a private civil penalty under this statute a form of "damages relating to a cause of action" that would fit within Chapter 41? and, if so, (2) are these civil penalties a form of "exemplary" damages that can only be awarded as a supplement to some more conventional damages remedy?

While the case has been pending in the Texas Supreme Court, a group of local government officials has filed an amicus brief asking the Court to clarify, regardless of how it disposes of these private claims, that the sort of civil penalties a local government might seek are not covered by Chapter 41.

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