Carpenter v. Cimarron Hydrocarbons Corp
In Carpenter v. Cimarron Hydrocarbons Corp., 98 S.W.3d 682, 46 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 305 (Tex. 2002), the plaintiff had failed to respond to a motion for summary judgment, but did file a motion for leave to file a later response and a motion to continue the scheduled summary judgment hearing; those motions were denied by the trial court. Id. at 683.
The plaintiff claimed it was error to deny his motions, and also that the Craddock standard (Craddock v. Sunshine Bus Lines, Inc) should be applied to motions for new trial in this context. Id.
The court stated:
"We hold that Craddock does not apply to a motion for new trial filed after summary judgment is granted on a motion to which the nonmovant failed to timely respond when the respondent had notice of the hearing and an opportunity to employ the means our civil procedure rules make available to alter the deadlines Rule 166a imposes. In this case, the rules provided the plaintiff an opportunity to obtain leave to file a late response to the summary-judgment motion. Therefore the court of appeals erred in applying the equitable Craddock standard to plaintiff's motion for new trial." Carpenter, 98 S.W.3d at 683-84.
The court went on to hold that a motion for leave to file a late summary judgment response should be granted when good cause is shown. Id. at 684.
The Texas Supreme Court decided the standard to be applied "to a motion for new trial filed after summary judgment is granted on a motion to which the nonmovant failed to timely respond when the respondent had notice of the hearing and an opportunity to employ the means our civil procedure rules make available to alter the deadlines Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a Rule 166a imposes."
A motion for new trial "should be granted when a litigant establishes good cause for failing to timely respond by showing that:
(1) the failure to respond was not intentional or the result of conscious indifference, but the result of accident or mistake;
(2) allowing the late response will occasion no undue delay or otherwise injure the party seeking summary judgment." Id. at 688.
The Court noted that Cimarron's counsel recognized that he had miscalendared the response due date two days before the hearing.
Although Cimarron filed a motion for continuance and a motion to file a late response, the court noted that Cimarron's motion did not offer any explanation for its failure to timely respond, nor was the motion accompanied by any supporting affidavits or other evidence.
The only argument in Cimarron's motion was that Carpenter would suffer no prejudice if its late filing were permitted.
The court further noted that at the hearing, Cimarron's counsel merely "argued" that the response due date had been miscalendared; he offered no explanation of the error from which the trial court might determine that an accident or mistake had occurred.
The court pointed out that although Cimarron discovered that the filing deadline had passed two days before the hearing, it was not until after the hearing that Cimarron investigated and learned the sequence of events that caused it to miss the filing deadline.
Therefore, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by "denying leave based upon counsel's bare assertion that he had 'miscalendared' the summary-judgment hearing."
The Court held that:
"The consequences to a party that inadvertently fails to timely respond to a summary-judgment motion are often similar to those faced by a party that would otherwise be bound by erroneous or deemed admissions. Each faces the very real prospect of summary disposition without regard to the underlying merits. The standard that applies to the withdrawal of admissions fairly balances the parties' interests and furthers the policies our rules are intended to serve. See TEX. R. CIV. P. 1." (Carpenter, 98 S.W.3d at 687-88.)
Based on that reasoning, a motion for leave to file a late summary-judgment response should be granted when a litigant establishes good cause for failing to timely respond by showing that (1) the failure to respond was not intentional or the result of conscious indifference, but the result of accident or mistake, and (2) allowing the late response will occasion no undue delay or otherwise injure the party seeking summary judgment. Id. at 688.
In Carpenter, the Texas Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in denying leave to file a late response, because the motion to file late did not explain the reason for the failure to timely respond, nor was it accompanied by any supporting affidavits or other evidence. It asserted only that the other party would suffer no prejudice if late filing were allowed. Id. at 688.