HOUSTON – The 1st District Court of Appeals has ruled a trial court improperly granted attorney's fees in case over allegedly unpaid office furniture.
“Based on the facts of this case, Computer Comforts cannot recover from (appellant David) Pollitt an award of attorney’s fees for breach of contract in the amount of $11,500 and exemplary damages for fraud in the amount of $20,000,” Justice Michael Massengale said in the Oct. 4 filing. “The trial court erroneously awarded both of those damages amounts. We modify the amended judgment to delete the $11,500 award of attorney’s fees to Computer Comforts, and we affirm the amended judgment as modified.”
At the center of the appeal is a 2013 order in a lawsuit in which Computer Comforts Inc. alleged that Covington Office Solutions, Covington Office Products Inc., Anthony Covington and the current appellant, Pollitt, owed it about $50,000 for office furniture they purchased in 2010 but did not make payments on per the written contract.
According to the ruling, Pollitt attempted to set up weekly payments, but Computer Comforts did not agree to the terms, refused to accept payment, and instead filed a lawsuit against the plaintiffs for “breach of contract, quantum meruit, promissory estoppel, suit on a sworn account, fraud in the inducement, and respondeat superior,” and held Pollitt and Covington “personally responsible” for the debt owed.
Pollitt was ordered by the trial court to pay $20,000 in damages. He objected and appealed, stating that the one-satisfaction rule says “there must be an election of remedy because the trial court could not award both attorney’s fees for breach of contract and exemplary damages on the fraud claim,” the filing said.
The trial court signed the judgment against Pollitt and his co-defendants, ordering them to pay jointly and severally $40,000 in actual damages, $40,000 in exemplary damages, and $11,500 in attorney's fees, post-judgment interest, and costs of court, according to the ruling. Pollitt then filed a motion to modify the judgment, stating the one-satisfaction rule again. That motion was overruled by operation of law.
In his current appeal, Pollitt still argues that the court “erred in rendering a judgment against him that includes both an award of attorney’s fees for breach of contract and exemplary damages for fraud because it violates the one-satisfaction rule,” according to ruling.
Pollitt asked the appellate court to vacate the award of attorney’s fees since the $20,000 exemplary damages offer “greater recovery,” according to the ruling. Computer Comforts did not respond to the appeal.
The one-satisfaction rule states that a plaintiff is limited to only one recovery for any damages suffered as a result of a single injury.