Appellate court rules trial court did not err in case involving Ford Motor

By Justin Stoltzfus | Mar 6, 2018

HOUSTON – A memorandum opinion from the 14th Court of Appeals by Justice John Donovan upholds a trial court's ruling in a case involving Ford Motor Co. and an application for the approval of an asset purchase agreement.

The court on Feb. 27 upheld the ruling of the 23rd District Court of Brazoria County in the case.

"This suit began in October 2002 when Mark Wiggins Ford-Mercury Inc. and Mark Wiggins, individually, (collectively 'Wiggins') filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Board (the 'Board') against Ford Motor Co. for rejecting its application for approval of an asset purchase agreement (the 'Contract') with Brazoria County Ford, L.P. (the 'Dealership'), Kirk L. Brannan, and Bobby Fielden Jr., all of whom subsequently intervened (collectively, the 'intervenors'), the opinion states.  

According to the opinion, the board issued a final order in 2004 and disagreements arose, so the interveners filed suit. The opinions states they alleged breach of contract, tortuous interference, deceptive trade practices and other charges against Ford in their fifth amended original petition.

A jury trial led to the trial court's ruling ordering both parties to bear their own costs and dismissing all claims on both sides. The dealership and Brannan filed a notice of appeal, but the dealership's was dismissed.

"Prior to trial, the trial court granted Ford’s motion for partial summary judgment on intervenors’ claims under the Texas DTPA and on breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing," the opinion states.

Brannan's appeal raised four issues, one of which claimed the court erred in the jury instructions, specifically claiming that the court erred in asking the jury to consider whether Ford intentionally interfered with the contract in question. He also claimed the court erred in granting Ford's motion for partial summary judgment.

Laying out basic elements of tortious interference in a contract, Donovan's opinion cites four things: the first is related to the contract itself and its existence, the second is establishing knowing or intentionally interference, the third is direct damage caused by this interference, and the fourth further considers “actual damage or loss.”

Donovan's opinion held the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it asked the jury to consider Ford's interference.

After considering Ford's cross-appeal for recovering legal costs, Donovan's opinion overruled it in backing up the trial court’s result, a Solomonic balanced ruling that directs each side to pay for its own legal costs.

“Having overruled all issues on appeal, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed,” Donovan wrote.

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