Motion for New Trial Denial Based on Summary Judgment Against a Pro Se Party in Texas

In Wheeler v. Green, 157 S.W.3d 439 (Tex. 2005), the court reversed the denial of a motion for new trial based on a summary judgment supported by deemed admissions granted against a pro se defendant. However, the court reversed because the pro se defendant had in fact filed responses, but the responses were two days late based on the "mailbox rule." Id. at 441. The pro se defendant also attended the summary judgment hearing. Id. It concluded the trial court should have granted a new trial and allowed the deemed admissions to be withdrawn upon learning the summary judgment was solely based on her admissions being two days late. Id. at 444.The Court reversed a summary judgment based entirely on a pro se defendant's deemed admissions. As a result of the summary judgment, Wheeler, the pro se defendant, was terminated as joint managing conservator of her daughter, and Green, the plaintiff, was made sole managing conservator. Id. at 441. Wheeler had served answers to Green's requests for admissions, but application of the mailbox rule made her response two days late. Id. The trial court granted Green's summary judgment based on the deemed admissions and denied Wheeler's motion for new trial, in which she argued that her responses to the deemed admissions were, in fact, timely. Id. at 441-42. The court of appeals affirmed, and the Supreme Court reversed, holding that Wheeler had shown good cause for her late responses in that her motion for new trial showed that Wheeler was mistaken as to when service occurred and, based on Wheeler's motion, "the lower courts could have concluded that Wheeler was wrong on her dates and wrong on how to correct them, but not that either was the result of intent of conscious indifference." Id. at 442.