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Bella Palma, LLC v. Young Case Summary

Friday, May 29th, 2020

By: Matt Sherwood and Tyler DiMarino

Bella Palma, LLC v. Young Case Summary

In Bella Palma, LLC v. Young, the Texas Supreme Court addresses when a trial court’s judgment is final and appealable when one party to a lawsuit alleges he was never served and the trial court’s judgment does not specifically mention him.

The suit arises out of a commercial construction project. Bella Palma, LLC sued Mark Young and Timothy Young. Mark Young filed an answer to the lawsuit, but Timothy was never served and never appeared. During the suit, Bella Palma moved for summary judgment against Mark and Timothy, the trial court signed a judgment against Mark, but the judgment never referenced Timothy Young.

Mark then filed an appeal of the judgment, and, after the appeal was filed, Timothy filed his original answer and counterclaim to the lawsuit. The court of appeals asked the trial court to clarify the judgment’s finality, and the trial court confirmed it previously intended to render a final judgment. Still, the court of appeals reviewed the record and concluded the judgment was not final because it did not address the claims against Timothy. The Texas Supreme Court overruled the court of appeals holding the judgment was final and the court of appeals should not have analyzed the record for evidence of finality. The Supreme Court stated a judgment is final when “it actually disposes of every pending claim and party,” or the judgment “clearly and unequivocally states that it finally disposes of all claims and parties.” A trial court expresses its intent to make a final judgment by describing the judgment as final, disposing of all claims and parties, and making the judgment appealable.

While Bella Palma certainly presents a unique situation, parties will want to include certain language when obtaining a judgment so that the judgment will be final. The Texas Supreme Court states there are no “magic words” to make a judgment final, but language addressing the finality, the disposing of claims and parties, and the appealability of the judgment will lean toward a judgment being final.

This is not a legal opinion. You should contact your attorney if the case is of significance to you.

Matt Sherwood and Tyler DiMarino are members of Brown & Fortunato’s Litigation team. Matt Sherwood is a shareholder and is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law. The litigation team routinely represent clients in litigation matters involving contracts, construction, employment matters, personal injury, professional liability, products liability, real estate, oil and gas, tort, and insurance defense. The litigation team at Brown & Fortunato can be reached at 806-345-6300. You can contact Matt Sherwood directly at msherwood@bf-law.com or Tyler DiMarino at tdimarino@bf-law.com.