BEAUMONT – A couple who claimed that their First Amendment rights had been violated when a development prohibited them from operating a child care center from inside their home has lost their appeal to dismiss a suit filed by their homeowners association.
On Feb. 21, the 9th District Court of Appeals of Texas at Beaumont denied Abdallah and Tamara Salamah's appeal of the 410th District Court of Montgomery County's denial to dismiss a suit filed against them by Spring Trails Community Association.
"The Legislature enacted the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) to 'summarily dispose of lawsuits designed' to chill First Amendment rights, but it did not design the statute 'to dismiss meritorious lawsuits.' We have assumed the TCPA applies to the circumstances of this case, so we need not address the arguments the Salamahs raise in their first issue. For the reasons explained above, we affirm the trial court’s order denying the Salamahs’ motion to dismiss," Justice Hollis Horton wrote.
The association sued the Salamahs in September 2017 after it was discovered that they were running a child day care business inside their home. The association contended that the business was restricted based on their deed.
According to the ruling, the Salamahs argued that the "TCPA applies to the association’s suit, the association failed to meet its burden to show that specific evidence existed supporting each of the elements of its claims, and they established that valid affirmative defenses barred the association’s claims."
Regarding the Salamahs' argument that the association failed to meet its burden, Horton ruled "we hold the record contains clear and specific prima facie proof supporting each element of the association’s claims," adding that the Salamahs "failed to conclusively show their affirmative defenses barred the association from proceeding further on its claims."
The court also withdrew a previous December 2018 opinion in the case and substituted this ruling in its place.