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Ellmossallamy v. Huntsman – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Ellmossallamy v. Huntsman, 830 S.W.2d 299 (Tex. App.-Houston 14th Dist. 1992, no writ), the trial court refused to reinstate a case it had dismissed for want of prosecution, and the court of appeals reversed.

The undisputed facts showed that there was substantial discovery completed, beginning with the filing of the suit and continuing until shortly before a trial setting.

On the date set for trial, appellee's counsel announced that the parties had settled the case.

The trial court vacated the trial setting. According to the court of appeals' opinion, there was no evidence that the parties were not ready for trial. Id. at 301.

During a period of four months after the trial setting, neither party set the case for trial or filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. Id.

Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the case for want of prosecution. In the appellant's motion to reinstate, which was opposed by the appellee, appellant advised the trial court that the parties thought they had a settlement, but it turned out that they disagreed on the terms which appellee's counsel, the sole party appearing at court, read into the record on the trial date. Id. at 300.

The court of appeals called this the "misunderstood settlement agreement." Id. at 299.

While the court of appeals concluded that the parties could have easily avoided the disagreement had they both appeared to read the settlement into the record, back on the original trial date, the court of appeals concluded that this was an unintentional delay.

The appellant diligently pursued the case up to the point where it mistakenly assumed that the parties had a settlement agreement.

Accordingly, the majority of the court of appeals panel concluded that appellant "deserved his day in court" and an abuse of discretion was shown in the trial court's dismissal. Id. at 302.