Bennett v. Cochran

In Bennett v. Cochran, No. 14-00-01160-CV, 2004 WL 852298 (Tex. App.--Houston 14th Dist. Apr. 22, 2004, no pet.) (mem. op.), Cochran alleged that his former law partner, Bennett, had made negligent misrepresentations prior to their forming a law firm. Cochran asserted that Bennett had represented that his current law firm "was a viable firm, with substantial cases" and his "formaldehyde docket" consisted of "good cases that were worth a lot of money." Id. In support of the allegations, Cochran testified that, "I thought that we were merging into a viable law firm with a substantial number of cases and with competent staff and I thought I was merging in with a partner with whom I could work." Id. The court of appeals concluded that this evidence concerned only Cochran's "thoughts and beliefs" and did not reflect any actual representation. Id. In regard to the representation concerning the "formaldehyde docket," Cochran testified that Bennett had told him that they were "good cases and there was a lot of money to be made." The court of appeals concluded that such statements constitute "nonactionable 'puffing' or expressions of opinion as to the value of these cases." After holding that certain statements made by Bennett to Cochran were mere "puffing," the court alternatively noted that Cochran had not justifiably relied upon Bennett's statements that he had "good cases" on which "a lot of money" could be made. The court noted that Bennett had not told Cochran "one way or the other" whether he could review any documents relating to Bennett's prior law firm and Cochran had never asked to review any such records. Id. The court concluded that, under these circumstances, there was no evidence that Cochran's reliance on "general statements" about "good cases" worth "a lot of money" was justifiable. Id.