Texas Supreme Court holds if County Court has no jurisdiction for underlying suit, it has no jurisdiction for Rule 202 presuit discovery

In Re: City of Dallas, 15-0794 (Tex. September 30, 2016)

This is a mandamus matter in relation to an underlying tortious interference claim between various cities and the county. In the Waco Court of Appeals opinion, summary found here, the court found the City of Corsicana and Navarro County properly asserted a claim for tortious interference with a business contract involving Home Depo because the City of Dallas allegedly wooed away the company to relocate. The Court of Appeals held the interference with an existing business contract, i.e. business recruiting, by the City of Dallas was a proprietary function and no immunity applied. However, the aspect before the Texas Supreme Court was not related directly to the proprietary function holding. Instead, the Court conditionally granted mandamus and ordered the Navarro County Court to reconsider its damages jurisdiction.

The underlying suit was not yet a suit for damages, but was a Rule 202 petition for pre-suit discovery. If a claim was found to exist, the City of Corsicana admitted the damages may exceed the $200,000 jurisdictional limit of county court.  However, the Corsicana argued that since the matter was simply a Rule 202 petition for discovery, the County Court did have jurisdiction. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that unless the County Court had jurisdiction of the underlying claims, it could not have jurisdiction over a Rule 202 petition. The Court was not persuaded that the pleadings affirmatively negated jurisdiction and the damages could still fall under the cap. Therefore, it ordered the County Court to evaluate its jurisdiction based on the likely damages of the underlying suit.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Per curiam opinion. The docket page with attorney information is found here.