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Direct Commercial Funding, Inc. v. Beacon Hill Estates, LLC – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Direct Commercial Funding, Inc. v. Beacon Hill Estates, LLC, 407 S.W.3d 398 (Tex. App.--Houston 14th Dis. 2013, no pet.), the trial court signed an order granting the defamation defendant's motion to dismiss six weeks after the motion was denied by operation of law.

After considering the plain language of the statute and its purpose, the Houston court concluded a trial court is not authorized to grant a motion to dismiss under the Act more than thirty days after the hearing on the motion. Direct Comm'l Funding, 407 S.W.3d at 401-02.

As the court explained:

"The entire Act is directed toward the expeditious dismissal and appeal of suits that are brought to punish or prevent the exercise of certain constitutional rights. The distinction drawn by the legislature between extendable deadlines and firm deadlines--and more particularly, the mandatory deadline that applies to the trial court's authority to rule on a motion to dismiss--would be meaningless if the trial court, acting sua sponte, could reverse the consequences imposed by statute for the failure to timely act." Id. at 401.

The court further rejected any suggestion that Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 329b provided authority for the trial court to grant the motion to dismiss after it had been denied by operation of law. Rule 329b, which governs motions for new trial and motions to modify, correct, or reform judgments, specifically empowers a trial court to "grant a new trial or to vacate, modify, correct, or reform the judgment until thirty days after all such timely-filed motions are overruled, either by a written and signed order or by operation of law, whichever occurs first." Tex. R. Civ. P. 329b(e).

But, as the Houston court noted, the TCPA does not contain an analogous provision empowering the trial court to grant a motion to dismiss after it has been overruled by operation of law. Direct Comm'l Funding, 407 S.W.3d at 402.