Humphreys v. Delcourt (pdf) (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 31, 2009)(Higley)
(legal malpractice suit)
REVERSE TC JUDGMENT AND RENDER JUDGMENT: Opinion by Justice Higley
Before Justices Jennings, Higley and Massengale
01-09-00025-CV Jahn Eric Humphreys v. Richard Delcourt
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 4 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Roberta A. Lloyd
In this legal malpractice suit, appellant, Jahn Eric Humphreys, appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of
his former client, appellee Richard Delcourt. In three issues, Humphreys contends that (1) the trial court
erred by awarding attorney's fees to Delcourt because attorney's fees are not recoverable in a legal
malpractice suit, (2) the trial court erred by refusing to submit a jury question concerning the proportionate
responsibility of defaulting co-defendant, David Person, who is not a party to this appeal, and (3) the
evidence is legally insufficient to support the jury's finding that "the negligence of [Humphreys] proximately
caused any damages."
We reverse and render judgment that Delcourt take nothing by his suit against Humphreys.
In 1996, Delcourt became divorced from his wife, Mary Delcourt, in a Harris County court. Mary was awarded
primary managing conservatorship of their son and daughter, and Delcourt was ordered to pay child support
and insurance. Shortly after, Mary and the children moved to Montgomery County. Amidst allegations that
Mary had become abusive to the children, Delcourt sought to modify the decree to name himself the primary
In 1999, Delcourt hired attorney Robert B. Peltier to represent him in the matter. Peltier is not a party to this
suit. Because Montgomery County had become the domicile of the children, Peltier had the case transferred
to Montgomery County, where he filed Delcourt's original petition to modify. Thereafter, the case sat idle. In
April 2003, according to Delcourt, he received notice that the Montgomery County court intended to dismiss
his case for want of prosecution. In September 2003, Delcourt fired Peltier.
In November 2003, Delcourt called the law firm of Humphreys & Humphreys, seeking representation in
unrelated business matters. Delcourt met with attorney David Person. Delcourt sought the return of $3,500
that he had spent to rent an allegedly defective recreational vehicle ("RV") from "Bay Area RV Rentals" for a
family trip to New Mexico the "prior August." In addition, Delcourt sought to pursue a business claim against
Synergy Company, the details of which are not before us. Further, Delcourt wished to pursue a claim against
Peltier to recover unearned portions of his retainer.
Delcourt signed an engagement contract with "Humphreys & Humphreys," authorizing the "Firm and David
Person" (1) to "institute and maintain, and to prosecute the cause of action." Delcourt paid a $500 retainer
and the record reflects that appellant, Jahn Eric Humphreys, endorsed the check and deposited it into his
trust account. It is undisputed that Delcourt did not have any other contact with Humphreys. Delcourt
contends that, thereafter, all of his legal matters sat idle. Humphreys contends that Person notified Delcourt
that, after research, Person had deemed that the claims were not viable and that he would not be pursuing
On February 4, 2004, having discharged Peltier, Delcourt contracted with "Humphreys & Humphreys and
David Person, Esq." (2) to take up his suit for modification of conservatorship of his children. Delcourt paid a
$2,500 retainer, which Person endorsed and deposited into an account unknown to Humphreys. Delcourt
explained to Person that the suit had been transferred and filed in Montgomery County, and they discussed
the additional expenses Person would incur in traveling from the firm's location in Seabrook to Montgomery
County to prosecute the suit. The engagement contract reflects a handwritten notation, "Client agrees for
reasonable hotel fees for lawyer as necessary case." In March 2004, Person filed Delcourt's motion to
modify in Harris County.
Thereafter, Delcourt became increasingly unable to reach Person by telephone regarding the status of his
case. Finally, in May 2004, Delcourt reached Person. According to Delcourt, Person said that Humphreys
handled all of the family law cases for the firm and that Delcourt would need to set an appointment to discuss
his case with Humphreys. Delcourt refused, told Person that he was fired, and demanded the return of his
files and the retainer. Person told Delcourt to come to the firm on Friday, June 4, to pick up his files and a
refund. When Delcourt arrived at the firm, however, nobody was there.
Delcourt called Person, and they agreed that Delcourt would instead meet him at the firm on Monday, June
7. When Delcourt arrived, Person was not there again. Delcourt was angry, and a secretary called
Humphreys. Humphreys had the secretary hand the telephone to Delcourt. It is undisputed this was
Delcourt's first actual contact with Humphreys. According to Delcourt, Humphreys said that Person worked
for him and that, before any files would be returned or refunds would be issued, Delcourt would have to set
an appointment to meet with Humphreys. Delcourt left.
On June 8, 2004, Delcourt wrote a letter demanding the return of his files and a refund of unearned sums.
Humphreys responded by faxed letter, asserting that he had never denied Delcourt his files or a refund, and
denying that either he or Person had ever represented Delcourt in any legal matters. Also in his letter,
Humphreys directed Delcourt to a provision in their contract that "calls for a non-refundable retainer" in the
"family law case," and asked Delcourt to execute "the enclosed Motion to facilitate David Person's and/or
Humphreys and Humphreys termination."
On June 9, 2004, Delcourt wrote another letter, contending that nothing substantive had been done to
advance his cases; that he had instructed Person to proceed on the RV and Synergy cases, but nothing had
been done; that his modification suit had been "sitting in the DWOP bin in Montgomery County since April
2003," but nothing had been done; and that the suit Person filed in Harris County was moot because, as
Person was aware, the case had been transferred. On June 17, 2004, Delcourt received his files and a
refund of $2,465 of $3,000.
In 2005, Delcourt retained Jack Riley to represent him in the suit to modify. The matter was heard in County
Court at Law No. 1 of Montgomery County in 2005 and into 2006. Delcourt was awarded primary managing
conservatorship of the children, his child support and insurance obligations ended, and Mary was ordered to
begin paying child support and insurance.
On October 4, 2005, Delcourt filed the instant legal malpractice suit against Humphreys and Person. In his
petition, Delcourt alleged that Humphreys and Person had "failed to perform and/or were negligent in
performing legal services, including but not limited to, filing the custody matter in the wrong county." Delcourt
averred that Humphreys and Person had "negligently caused additional damage and delayed the resolution
of the custody issues, and other legal matters." Delcourt sought damages for mental anguish in the past and
future, "unnecessary attorney's fees," and loss of child support payments.
Humphreys answered with a general denial. On November 28, 2007, an "Interlocutory Default Judgment" was
rendered against Person in favor of Delcourt, stating that Person, although duly cited, did not answer the
suit and that Delcourt could later present evidence as to the exact nature and amount of his damages.
On September 9, 2008, the matter of Humphreys's liability and the damages issue were tried to a jury. Riley
testified that he was familiar with the standard of care for an attorney representing a client in Delcourt's
situation and that, if the attorney knew that the case had been transferred to Montgomery County, filing
Delcourt's suit in Harris County was below the standard of care. In addition, Riley testified that Delcourt
incurred $1,400 to $2,000 in additional expenses based on the actions or inaction of Humphreys and
Person, over and above what it would have cost if Delcourt had come to Riley initially. Riley testified that he
had to substitute in as counsel in the Harris County suit and have it dismissed, and he had to substitute in as
counsel in the Montgomery County case, file a motion to retain the case on the docket, and attend a
hearing. In addition, Riley testified that, had Delcourt's case been timely prosecuted, he would have been
receiving child support and insurance instead of paying it out.
Delcourt requested damages from the jury as follows: (1) $3,500 in the RV case that was never prosecuted;
(2) $2,000 or $8,000 in the Peltier case that was never prosecuted (3); (3) $535 for the remainder of the
$3,000 retainer paid to Person; (4) $2,000 additional attorney's fees paid to Riley; (5) $14,535 in child
support for the four-month period that Humphreys and Person failed to prosecute the modification suit; and
(6) $32,000 in attorney's fees for preparation and trial of the instant suit.
At the close of trial, Delcourt submitted four special issues to the jury. In Question 1, the jury was asked
whether Delcourt was "a client of Jahn Eric Humphreys." The jury answered in the affirmative. In Question 2,
the jury was asked whether "the negligence, if any, of Jahn Eric Humphreys proximately cause[d] the
occurrence in question." The jury answered in the affirmative. In Question 3, the jury was asked, "What sum
of money, if paid now in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate [Delcourt] for his damages, if any,
that resulted from the occurrence in question?" The jury answered, "$5,000." In Question 4, the jury was
asked, "What sum of money do you find is a reasonable and necessary fee for the services of [Delcourt's]
attorney in this case?" Concerning "preparation and trial of this case," the jury answered, "$32,000."
The trial court entered judgment on the verdict. The court held that "the jury finds in favor of Plaintiff,
Richard Delcourt, and against Defendants Joint and Several Liability [sic], Jahn Eric Humphreys and David
Person, in the amount of $5,000." In addition, the trial court found that, "based on the jury's verdict,"
Delcourt was "entitled to the sum of $32,000.00 . . . , as attorney's fees, to bear interest at the rate of 6%
per annum from the date this judgment is signed until paid."
Humphreys's motion for new trial was overruled by operation of law. This appeal by Humphreys ensued.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
In his third issue, Humphreys contends that the evidence is legally insufficient to support the jury's finding
that "the negligence of [Humphreys] proximately caused any damages." Specifically, Humphreys contends
that Delcourt "failed to satisfy the proximate cause requirement" of his legal malpractice claim.
A. Standard of Review
In a legal sufficiency review, we "consider evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and indulge
every reasonable inference that would support it." City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 822 (Tex. 2005).
We will sustain a legal sufficiency or "no-evidence" challenge if the record shows one of the following: (1) a
complete absence of evidence of a vital fact, (2) rules of law or evidence bar the court from giving weight to
the only evidence offered to prove a vital fact, (3) the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is no more than a
scintilla, or (4) the evidence establishes conclusively the opposite of the vital fact. Id. at 810. If there is more
than a scintilla of evidence to support the challenged finding, we must uphold it. Formosa Plastics Corp. USA
v. Presidio Eng'rs & Contractors, Inc., 960 S.W.2d 41, 48 (Tex. 1998). "[W]hen the evidence offered to prove
a vital fact is so weak as to do no more than create a mere surmise or suspicion of its existence, the
evidence is no more than a scintilla and, in legal effect, is no evidence." Ford Motor Co. v. Ridgway, 135
S.W.3d 598, 601 (Tex. 2004) (quoting Kindred v. Con/Chem, Inc., 650 S.W.2d 61, 63 (Tex. 1983)). However,
if the evidence at trial would enable reasonable and fair-minded people to differ in their conclusions, then
jurors must be allowed to do so. City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d at 822; see also King Ranch, Inc. v. Chapman,
118 S.W.3d 742, 751 (Tex. 2003). "A reviewing court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the
trier-of-fact, so long as the evidence falls within this zone of reasonable disagreement." City of Keller, 168
S.W.3d at 822. "The final test for legal sufficiency must always be whether the evidence at trial would enable
reasonable and fair-minded people to reach the verdict under review." Id. at 827.
B. Guiding Legal Principles
To prevail on a legal malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the attorney owed a duty to the plaintiff;
(2) the attorney breached that duty; (3) the breach proximately caused damages; and (4) the plaintiff was
damaged. Cosgrove v. Grimes, 774 S.W.2d 662, 665 (Tex. 1989).
An attorney owes to his client a duty to act with ordinary care, that is, in a manner consistent with the
standard of care that would be expected to be exercised by a reasonably prudent attorney. See id. at 664.
The "standard is an objective exercise of professional judgment, not the subjective belief that [the attorney's]
acts are in good faith." Id. at 665. Complaints about an attorney's care, skill, or diligence in representing a
client implicate this duty of ordinary care and sound in negligence. See Rangel v. Lapin, 177 S.W.3d 17, 24
(Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, pet. denied) (stating that, regardless of theory plaintiff pleads, if crux of
the complaint is that plaintiff's attorney did not provide adequate legal representation, claim is one for legal
malpractice). "[A] lawyer can commit professional negligence by giving an erroneous legal opinion or
erroneous advice, by delaying or failing to handle a matter entrusted to the lawyer's care, or by not using a
lawyer's ordinary care in preparing, managing, and prosecuting a case." Murphy v. Gruber, 241 S.W.3d 689,
693 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2007, pet. denied); see Alexander v. Turtur & Assocs., Inc., 146 S.W.3d 113, 119
In addition, the plaintiff must demonstrate that any alleged damages, including attorney's fees, were
proximately caused by the breach of a duty by the defendant. See Cosgrove, 774 S.W.2d at 665; Judwin
Props., Inc. v. Griggs & Harrison, 911 S.W.2d 498, 507 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, writ denied).
Proximate cause requires proof of both cause-in-fact and foreseeability. Travis v. City of Mesquite, 830
S.W.2d 94, 98 (Tex. 1992). "Cause-in-fact" means that the defendant's act or omission was a substantial
factor in bringing about the injury that would not otherwise have occurred. Prudential Ins. Co. v. Jefferson
Assocs., Ltd., 896 S.W.2d 156, 161 (Tex. 1995). "Foreseeability" means that the actor should have
anticipated the dangers that his negligent act created for others. Travis, 830 S.W.2d at 98. When the causal
link is beyond a jury's common understanding, expert testimony is required. Alexander, 146 S.W.3d at
After a default judgment was rendered against Person, the suit moved forward to trial on the issue of
Humphreys's liability (4) and the issue of damages. (5)
Humphreys does not, on appeal, dispute the jury's answer to Question 1, namely, that he had an
attorney-client relationship with Delcourt. Humphreys admitted at trial that he endorsed Delcourt's first
retainer check and deposited it into his trust account. Also, in his brief, Humphreys confirms, "In the case at
bar, Appellee [Delcourt] contracted with Appellant [Humphreys] and co-defendant David Person for
representation regarding the modification of a custody order."
In Question 2, the jury was asked: "Did the negligence, if any, of [Humphreys] proximately cause the
occurrence in question?" The jury was instructed as follows:
"Negligence" when used with respect to the conduct of [Humphreys] means failure to use ordinary care, that
is, failing to do that which an attorney of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar
circumstances, or doing that which an attorney of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same
or similar circumstances.
"Ordinary care" when used with respect to the conduct of [Humphreys] means that degree of care that an
attorney of ordinary prudence would use under the same or similar circumstances.
"Proximate cause" when used with respect to the conduct of [Humphreys] means that cause which, in a
natural and continuous sequence, produces an event, and without which cause such event would not have
occurred. In order to be a proximate cause, the act or omission complained of must be such that an attorney
using ordinary care would have foreseen that the event, or some similar event, might reasonably result
therefrom. There may be more than one proximate cause of an event.
The jury answered, "Yes."
On appeal, Humphreys contends that Delcourt "failed to satisfy the proximate cause requirement."
"When a legal malpractice claim arises from prior litigation, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that 'but for'
the attorney's breach of duty, he or she would have prevailed on the underlying cause of action and would
have been entitled to judgment." Greathouse v. McConnell, 982 S.W.2d 165, 172-73 (Tex. App.--Houston
[1st Dist.] 1998, pet. denied) (articulating "suit within a suit" requirement); see also Alexander, 146 S.W.3d at
117 ("When the plaintiff's allegation is that some failure on the attorney's part caused an adverse result in
prior litigation, the plaintiff must produce evidence from which a jury may reasonably infer that the attorney's
conduct caused the damages alleged."). In addition, the plaintiff must show that a judgment would have been
collectible. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. v. Nat'l Dev. & Research Corp., No. 07-0818, 2009 WL
3494978, at *4-6 (Tex. Oct. 30, 2009); Cosgrove, 774 S.W.2d at 666; Ballesteros v. Jones, 985 S.W.2d 485,
489 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1998, pet. denied).
Delcourt asserted that he was damaged as follows: (1) $3,500 in the RV case that was never prosecuted; (2)
$2,000 or $8,000 in the Peltier case that was never prosecuted (6); (3) $535 for the remainder of the $3,000
retainer paid to Person; (4) $14,535 (7) in child support for the four-month period that Humphreys and
Person failed to prosecute the modification suit; (5) $2,000 in additional attorney's fees paid to Riley; and (6)
$32,000 in attorney's fees for preparation and trial of the instant suit. In Question 3 of the charge, the jury
was asked, "What sum of money, if paid now in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate [Delcourt] for
his damages, if any, that resulted from the occurrence in question?" The jury answered, "$5,000."
Humphreys contends that "Delcourt provide[d] absolutely no testimony or evidence that he would have
prevailed in the underlying actions, what damages he would have incurred or that the negligence of
[Humphreys] proximately caused any damages."
1. The RV action
In the RV action, Delcourt sought the return of $3,500 that he had spent to rent an allegedly defective RV
from "Bay Area RV Rentals" for a family trip to New Mexico the "prior August." Delcourt asserted at trial that
he kept the RV for all but the last day of the rental period, that the RV was generally defective, that some
repairs were required when he returned it to the dealer, and that he wanted his deposit and rental fees
returned. Delcourt complains that Humphreys failed to prosecute the claim.
Our review of the record reflects that Delcourt did not present any evidence that he would have prevailed in
the RV rental claim, what the amount of damages would have been, or that they would have been collectible.
See Akin, Gump, 2009 WL 3494978, at *4-6; Greathouse, 982 S.W.2d at 172-73. Moreover, Delcourt
testified that the RV case remained viable after he terminated his relationship with Person, yet Delcourt
decided not to pursue his claim. Delcourt did not present any evidence that "but for" an act or omission by
Humphreys, he would have prevailed in the RV suit, or that Humphreys was the proximate cause of any
injury. See Alexander, 146 S.W.3d at 117; Greathouse, 982 S.W.2d at 172-73.
2. The Peltier action
Delcourt sought the return of a portion of the retainer he paid to Peltier in the modification matter. Delcourt
complained that he hired Peltier in 1999 to represent him in the matter and that Peltier had failed to diligently
prosecute the case. Delcourt fired Peltier in September 2003. Delcourt complains that Humphreys failed to
prosecute his claim.
Delcourt did not present any evidence that "but for" Humphreys's conduct, he would have prevailed in a suit
against Peltier. See Duerr v. Brown, 262 S.W.3d 63, 76-77 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.)
(stating that to establish viable legal malpractice claim, plaintiff must establish that he would have prevailed
on allegedly mishandled claims). In addition, Delcourt did not present any evidence that any damages he
was granted against Peltier would have been collectible. See Cosgrove, 774 S.W.2d at 666; Ballesteros, 985
S.W.2d at 489; see also Akin, Gump, 2009 WL 3494978, at *4-6 (reaffirming that certain evidence of
collectibility is required).
3. The modification action
Although Delcourt later prevailed in his modification suit, he was required to show evidence that the
damages that he alleges in this suit, including Riley's attorney's fees, were proximately caused by
Humphreys's misconduct. See Alexander, 146 S.W.3d at 117; Judwin Props., Inc. v. Griggs & Harrison, 911
S.W.2d 498, 507 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, writ denied) ("The law requires a necessary showing
of a causal relation between the act complained of and the injury sustained."). To prove proximate cause,
Delcourt was required to prove that (1) Humphreys's acts or omissions were a substantial factor in bringing
about an injury that would not otherwise have occurred and (2) Humphreys should have anticipated the
dangers that his negligent acts created for Delcourt. See Alexander, 146 S.W.3d at 117; Prudential Ins. Co.,
896 S.W.2d at 161; Travis, 830 S.W.2d at 98.
We first consider whether there is evidence that any act or omission by Humphreys was a substantial factor
in bringing about an injury in the modification proceeding that would not have otherwise occurred. See
Prudential Ins. Co., 896 S.W.2d at 161. Delcourt did not sue the firm; rather, Delcourt alleged in his petition
a direct liability claim against "Jahn Eric Humphreys, an Individual" and maintained throughout trial that
Humphreys was liable as a principal. Hence, Delcourt must point to evidence of an act or omission by
Delcourt does not direct us to, and we do not find, any evidence in the record of an affirmative act by
Humphreys in the modification matter. It is undisputed that Delcourt had never spoken with Humphreys until
after Delcourt had fired Person, and that Delcourt's telephone discussion with Humphreys on June 7, 2005,
concerning the return of Delcourt's files, was the first and only time Delcourt ever spoke with Humphreys.
Further, there is no evidence in the record, and Delcourt does not aver, that it was Humphreys who
erroneously filed the suit in the Harris County court. Hence, we consider only whether there was an omission
by Humphreys that was a substantial factor in bringing about an injury in the modification proceeding that
would not have otherwise occurred. See Prudential Ins. Co., 896 S.W.2d at 161.
Delcourt sought child support damages for the period during which his matter was at Humphreys's firm. Even
if we assume, without deciding, that Delcourt may recover child support as damages, there is no evidence in
the record before us that Delcourt suffered an injury by having to continue to pay child support and
insurance during the four-month period at issue. Delcourt conceded at trial that his modification suit was
originally filed in 1999. In February 2004, when Delcourt first presented his modification matter to Person,
the matter had already been sitting idle for over five years. Delcourt acknowledged that the suit could not
have been tried to a close before May 2004, when Delcourt fired Person. Hence, during the four-month
period at issue, the children would have remained with Mary, and Delcourt would still have been paying child
support, regardless of any omission by Humphreys. There is no evidence that any omission by Humphreys
was a substantial factor in bringing about an injury that would not have otherwise occurred. See Prudential
Ins. Co., 896 S.W.2d at 161. Moreover, it is undisputed that Delcourt's suit remained viable after the alleged
breach. Riley testified that Delcourt first came to see him in 2005. The case was tried in 2005 and 2006, and
Delcourt prevailed. Hence, there is no evidence of an injury.
Delcourt also sought the return of certain legal fees that he paid to Riley. Riley testified that Delcourt
incurred $2,000 in additional legal fees, over and above what he would have paid to Riley to prosecute the
case, had Delcourt come to him initially. Riley testified that he worked an additional 7 to 10 hours (1) to
substitute in to the Harris County suit and have it dismissed and (2) to substitute in to the Montgomery
County suit and move the court to retain the suit.
First, there is no evidence in the record that Humphreys filed the Harris County suit. To the contrary,
Delcourt testified that Person filed the suit. Second, there is no evidence that Delcourt suffered an injury with
regard to the Montgomery County suit. The Montgomery County suit was originally filed by Peltier in 1999.
Having dismissed Peltier, Delcourt would have incurred legal fees to substitute any new attorney and to
move the court to retain the case. Delcourt complained at trial that Humphreys and Person wholly failed to
do either. Hence, Delcourt was not injured when he incurred fees, for the first time, to have an attorney
(Riley) substitute in to the Montgomery County suit and retain the case.
4. Unearned retainer
The record shows that Delcourt wrote two checks to "David Person." The first check, which was for $500,
was in conjunction with an engagement contract authorizing the "Firm and David Person" to "institute and
maintain, and to prosecute" his RV, Peltier, and Synergy (8) causes of action. The record reflects that
Humphreys endorsed the check and deposited it into a trust account. The second check, which was for
$2,500, was in conjunction with an engagement contract authorizing "Humphreys & Humphreys and David
Person, Esq." to take up his modification suit. The record shows that Person endorsed and deposited the
check into an account unknown to Humphreys. Person refunded to Delcourt $2,465 of the total $3,000
retainer. By his suit, Delcourt sought a refund of the remaining $535 as unearned retainer.
Again, Delcourt brought a direct liability claim against Humphreys, individually, but the record lacks any
evidence that the $535 at issue constitutes damages that were proximately caused by any direct act or
omission by Humphreys. See Cosgrove, 774 S.W.2d at 665; Judwin Props., Inc., 911 S.W.2d at 507.
In sum, we conclude that Delcourt failed to present any evidence that Humphreys proximately caused any
damages. See Alexander, 146 S.W.3d at 117; Prudential Ins. Co., 896 S.W.2d at 161; Greathouse, 982
S.W.2d at 172-73. We hold that the evidence is legally insufficient to support Humphreys's liability for
negligence. See City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d at 822; Ford Motor Co., 135 S.W.3d at 601.
Accordingly, we sustain Humphreys's third issue.
Having sustained Humphreys's third issue concerning his liability for negligence, which obviates the
proportionate liability and damages issues, we do not reach Humphreys's contentions that the trial court
erred by refusing to submit a question to the jury on proportionate liability or that the trial court erred by
entering damages based on attorney's fees for preparation and trial of the instant suit.
We reverse the trial court's judgment and render judgment that Delcourt take nothing by his suit against
Laura Carter Higley
Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Higley, and Massengale.
The language "and David Person" was handwritten in and initialed.
Again, Person's name was handwritten in and initialed.
The record conflicts regarding the amount Delcourt sought.
Delcourt alleges that Humphreys was liable as a principal in this case and not under any vicarious theories. Hence, Person's
default is not presumed to bind Humphreys or to dispose of all parties and all issues in this case. See Brazos Valley Cmty.
Action Agency v. Robinson, 900 S.W.2d 843, 845-46 & n.1 (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi, 1995, writ denied).
In a no-answer default, a defaulting defendant admits all facts properly pleaded in the plaintiff's petition except for the amount
of unliquidated damages. Holt Atherton Indus., Inc. v. Heine, 835 S.W.2d 80, 83 (Tex. 1992). Thus, the plaintiff is only required
to prove its claim for unliquidated damages. Id.; see Tex. R. Civ. P. 243.
6. The record conflicts regarding the amount Delcourt sought.
Delcourt's monthly child support obligation was $475 per month and $568 for insurance. After the modification, pursuant to
the trial court's order, Mary began paying $210 in child support and $371 in insurance.
Although a claim against Synergy Company was raised at trial, Delcourt did not ask the jury for any damages. The Synergy
case was later prosecuted and Delcourt did not prevail.