AZA Beats Frivolous Anti-SLAPP Appeal in Construction Case April 28, 2022
HOUSTON – With criticism growing for how lawyers are abusing mid-case appeals, the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals today found that a local court was correct to toss a contractor’s frivolous attempts to use Texas’ anti-SLAPP law to delay an impending trial setting.
The case now headed back to the trial docket of the 113th Harris County District Court is over a dispute between the developer and contractor over construction of four residential apartment towers in Houston’s Midtown. This win was covered by Texas Lawbook in “AZA Team Slaps Down ‘Frivolous; Anti-SLAPP Appeal” (subscription required).
“This case is a poster child for the growing criticism that lawyers are using interlocutory appeals to simply delay cases. The appellate court affirmed the trial court down the line,” said AZA appellate lawyer Kelsi Stayart White, who is handling the case with Shahmeer Halepota and Nathan Campbell.
“The anti-SLAPP law is designed to keep people from using the courts to keep a party from speaking freely about a matter of public concern. Instead, some lawyers are trying to use it to stall a case they’d rather not face,” Ms. White said.
Contractor Patriot Contracting and its owner Stephen J. Friedman sued developer Mid-Main Properties and some subcontractors over the apartment project Patriot abandoned. Mid-Main countersued for many claims including fraud, negligence, and breach of contract for faulty work and nonpayment to subcontractors.
Patriot had asked the trial court for several continuances and when Mid-Main filed an amended counterclaim, Patriot filed a motion using the anti-SLAPP law, known as the Texas Citizen Participation Act (TCPA), claiming there were new facts alleged. The trial court found the motion was untimely and frivolous and filed as a delay tactic. The trial court also ordered Patriot to pay Mid-Main costs and attorneys fees for answering the motion. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding and sent the case back for Mid-Main to recover its fees spent dealing with the TCPA Motion and appeal, and for the case to be tried. The appellate court also found that Patriot should pay all costs for their frivolous appeal.
The case is Patriot Contracting, LLC and Stephen J. Friedman, Appellants v. Mid-Main Properties, LP, Appellee, case number 14-20-00724-CV in the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals. It was appealed from the 113th Harris County District Court where the case number is 2017-19892.
AZA is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2021 among the best in Texas commercial law and intellectual property; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for ten years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm.