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Cruz v. Morris – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Cruz v. Morris, 877 S.W.2d 45 (Tex. App.--Houston 14th Dist. 1994, no writ), the trial court sustained the appellee's special exception challenging the failure of the appellant's pleading to state the maximum amount of damages claimed. Id. at 46.

The trial court ordered the appellant to replead within thirty days or face dismissal of the damages parts of her pleading. Id.

The appellant failed to file an amended pleading within the thirty-day period, and the trial court dismissed the sections of her pleadings related to damages. Id.

One day after the dismissal, the appellant filed an amended pleading setting out specific damages amounts. Id.

She later filed a motion to reinstate the parts of her pleading that the trial court had stricken, arguing that her failure to replead was "due to clerical error and attorney oversight, not a conscious intent to disregard the order." Id.

The trial court denied the motion. Id. The appellees did not file a motion to dismiss the appellant's pleadings until over a year later when the appellant filed a first supplemental petition increasing the damages amounts she was claiming. Id.

At that time, the appellees moved to dismiss both petitions, and the trial court granted the motion because without any damages allegations, the appellant's pleadings failed to state a cause of action. Id.

The Houston Fourteenth District Court of Appeals held that "the trial court's actions, while perhaps severe, were within the bounds of her discretion in managing her docket." Id. at 47.

The appellate court noted that the trial court gave the appellant notice that it would strike the damages portions of the pleading if she did not comply with the repleading deadline, that the appellant did not object to the length of time given to replead, and that the trial court had fulfilled its obligation to allow the appellant an opportunity to replead. Id. at 48.

The appellate court stated, "Although we may disagree with the severity of the action, we cannot say that such action is so arbitrary as to warrant our finding an abuse of discretion." Id.