Carpenter v. Cimarron Hydrocarbons

In Carpenter v. Cimarron Hydrocarbons, 98 S.W.3d 682 (Tex. 2002), the plaintiff failed to timely respond to the defendants' motion for summary judgment. 98 S.W.3d at 683. The plaintiff moved for a continuance of the summary-judgment hearing and sought leave to file an untimely response. Id. The trial court denied both motions and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Id. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the summary judgment should be treated like a default judgment and should be reviewed under the equitable standard enunciated in Craddock v. Sunshine Bus Lines, 134 Tex. 388, 133 S.W.2d 124 (1939). In Craddock, the Supreme Court held that a trial court should set aside a default judgment when the defendant shows that (1) the failure to answer was not intentional or the result of conscious indifference, but the result of an accident or mistake, (2) the motion for new trial sets up a meritorious defense, and (3) granting the motion for new trial will not cause undue delay or otherwise injure the plaintiff. Craddock, 133 S.W.2d at 126. This rule has been extended to motions for new trial filed after post-answer default judgments as well. Ivy v. Carrell, 407 S.W.2d 212, 214 (Tex. 1966). The plaintiff in Carpenter sought to extend the rule further and urged its application when the trial court grants a summary-judgment motion to which the nonmovant has not timely responded. Carpenter, 98 S.W.3d at 686. But in that case, the plaintiff had notice of the summary-judgment hearing and had moved for a continuance and sought leave to file a late response. Id. at 684-85. The Supreme Court explained that the Craddock standard was intended "to alleviate unduly harsh and unjust results at a point in time when the defaulting party has no other remedy available." Id. at 686. The Court held that Craddock did not apply to the situation presented by Carpenter: i.e., the nonmovant had notice of the summary-judgment hearing, failed to timely respond to the motion, and had an opportunity to seek relief under Rule 166a prior to the trial court's rendition of summary judgment. Id. Thus, in Carpenter, the plaintiff's recourse was to seek appellate review of the trial court's rulings under the usual abuse-of-discretion standard. Id.