Garcia-Udall v. Udall – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Garcia-Udall v. Udall, 141 S.W.3d 323, 327 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2004, no pet.), temporary orders gave one parent the exclusive right to consent to "invasive medical, dental, or surgical treatment."

The parties subsequently executed a Tex. Fam. Code Section 153.0071 mediated settlement agreement that incorporated the temporary orders into the divorce decree, and also provided that one parent would have the final decision "in the event the parties cannot agree on medical, dental or surgical treatment involving invasive procedures." Id. at 327-28.

The appellant argued the agreement changed the decision making on invasive treatment from appellee's exclusive right to a joint right. Id. at 328.

Recognizing that an unambiguous contract must be interpreted as a matter of law, and ambiguity does not arise merely because the parties advance differing interpretations, the court of appeals held the adjectives "medical, dental or surgical" modified the same noun, "treatment" and the participial phrase "involving invasive procedures" modified the noun "treatment" and was not limited to surgical treatment. Id.

The court of appeals reversed the trial court and modified the judgment to make the decree conform to the mediated agreement. Id. at 329.

"The fact that the trial court interpreted the mediated settlement differently is irrelevant because the trial court has no discretion to misapply the law." Id.