Judicial Estoppel In a Wrongful Death Claim Case Example

In the Stewart v. Hardie, 978 S.W.2d 203, 208 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1998, pet. denied) case, Dr. Hardie admitted Mrs. Stewart to the hospital for surgery. Id. at 205. She suffered from postoperative bleeding, and eventually died. Id. She was survived by her husband Stewart and three children. Id. The debtor, Stewart, filed for bankruptcy on May 3, 1991 and on September 5 of that same year, the bankruptcy court discharged Stewart as a debtor. Stewart, 978 S.W.2d at 206. On November 15, 1991, Stewart filed his original petition asserting survival and wrongful death actions on behalf of his deceased wife. Id. Hardie, the defendant, filed affirmative defenses to both actions claiming that Stewart was judicially estopped from asserting his wrongful death claim because he had failed to list it as an asset in his bankruptcy petition six months before. Id. The parties submitted an "agreed case" to the court. Id.; see TEX. R. CIV. P. 263. After considering the evidence, the trial court ruled that Stewart was barred from asserting his wrongful death claim on the basis of judicial estoppel. Id. On appeal, the Texarkana appellate court held that Stewart was barred from bringing his wrongful death claim under the doctrine of judicial estoppel. Id. at 208. The court determined that Stewart was "playing fast and loose" with the courts by the timing of his filings and that it appeared he deliberately waited until after the bankruptcy proceeding was discharged to bring his claim. Id. at 208. Despite the factual similarity of these two cases, Continental's reliance on this case is misplaced. Initially, Stewart's cause of action was disposed of as an agreed case. See TEX. R. CIV. P. 263. In reviewing an agreed case the only issue on appeal is whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the stipulated facts. See id. at 206; State Farm Lloyds v. Kessler, 932 S.W.2d 732, 735 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1996, writ. denied).