HOUSTON – A Texas appellate court has reversed a summary judgment against Intervenor, a Texas law firm, in a case over an attorney’s fee award.

The decision, filed by the 14th Court of Appeals of Texas on Sept. 19, found that the trial court had erred in granting summary judgment in favor of appellee Juan Cuevas.

Justice Marc Brown
Justice Marc Brown | http://www.txcourts.gov/14thcoa/about-the-court/justices/justice-marc-brown/

According to the opinion, the case originates from a February 2010 lawsuit, in which Intervenor represented Cuevas against Eventino Arredondo and Built Right Homes LLC. Four years later, in September 2014, Intervenor filed a plea against Cuevas for non-payment of attorney’s fees awarded to Cuevas in his judgment.

In March 2016, Cuevas filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that Intervenor’s claims had passed the four-year statute of limitations for such cases, arguing that the accrual date was the date the judgment in the original lawsuit had been signed. The trial court granted Cuevas’ motion for summary judgment and struck Intervenor’s other claims for a lack of a justiciable interest.

In the appeals court’s opinion, written by Justice Marc W. Brown with Justices William J. Boyce and Martha Hill Jameson concurring, the evidence provided by both parties was reconsidered.

According to Brown’s opinion, “Intervenor contends that there was a complete absence of authentication of the only evidence attached to Cuevas’s traditional summary-judgment motion.” 

However, Brown goes on to cite precedent under which “copies of documents must be authenticated in order to constitute competent summary judgment evidence.” Authentication requires documents be officially sealed and signed, or certified.

In this case, Cuevas argues that the trial court chose to judicially notice the prior judgment, but Brown pointed out that a court is only able to do so for its own records, not those of another court. 

“Because none of the summary-judgment evidence was authenticated or certified, it was incompetent,” writes Brown. “Accordingly, the trial court erred in granting final summary judgment in favor of Cuevas and against Intervenor.”

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment, remanding the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

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