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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Appeals court denies former director of Houston art gallery's motion to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty suit


By Takesha Thomas | Mar 21, 2019


HOUSTON – The state's First District Court of Appeals recently affirmed a decision by the Harris County 157th District Court to deny a motion by the former director of a Houston fine art gallery to dismiss a breach of fiduciary duty suit filed by the gallery.

In the opinion issued March 12, Justice Laura Carter Highley affirmed the trial court ruling that denied the motion by Christopher Skidmore, his wife Anne Goettee Skidmore, Catherine Goette Echols and Skidmore Homes Inc. to dismiss the suit filed by Gremillion & Co. Fine Art. 

According to court papers, Christopher Skidmore had worked for Gremillion as its director for 30 years until March 2018. The gallery represents artists in promoting and selling their work, and it provides art consulting services to designers and interior decorators. Skidmore's wife and her sister, Echols, operated an interior design and decorating company. Gremillion claimed that Christopher Skidmore had "violated his fiduciary duties by providing art-related services to Gremillion’s clients and directing the payment for those services to be made to himself or to his wife and sister-in-laws’ businesses."

On April 4, 2018, Gremillion filed suit against Christopher Skidmore for alleged breach of fiduciary duty and Skidmore's wife, sister-in-law and their interior decorating business for aiding and abetting the breach. Gremillion contended that Christopher’s position with Gremillion had given him access to Gremillion’s confidential and proprietary business information, court filings said. Gremillion also claimed that Christopher misappropriated its proprietary information to use for his own benefit.

According to court papers, section 27.003(b) of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) requires that a motion to dismiss be filed within 60 days of service of the legal action.

The appeals court ruling, in which Justices Evelyn Keyes Sarah Beth Landau concurred, said Skidmore's "60-day window in which to file their TCPA motion began to run when they made their general appearances and their deadline to file the motion expired 60 days later. Therefore concluding that the trial court didn't err when they denied the motion to dismiss as untimely."

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