E-Mail From Court to Court Coordinator, Instead of Signed Written Order, Is Sufficient to Trigger “Waiver Through Delay”

Things in Texas state court are a bit different from federal court. Take the Fifth District Court of Appeals’ decision In re Yamaha Golf-Car Company (available here). In the case, the trial court e-mailed her court administrator stating that the trial court needed “the following orders” and indicating that a motion to strike a designation of a responsible third party was “Granted.” The court administrator then forwarded the judge’s e-mail to all counsel of record and asked the parties to submit appropriate orders approved as to form pursuant to the judge’s rulings set forth in the judge’s e-mail.

The trial court did not sign a written order granting the motion to strike the responsible third party until eight months later. Three weeks after that, Yamaha sought mandamus relief at the appellate court.

The appellate court rejected the mandamus request, finding that Yamaha waited too long (i.e., it should’ve sought mandamus relief upon receipt of the e-mail from the court coordinator, and not waited until the Court issued the signed written order):

Here, Yamaha waited eight months after the trial court’s July 12, 2018 e-mail ruling to seek mandamus relief, filed the petition only three weeks before trial, and initially offered no explanation for the delay. In its reply brief, Yamaha argues that the e-mail from the court coordinator was not sufficiently clear and specific to be reviewed by mandamus but was, instead, simply an expression of future intent to sign a written order. We disagree. The e-mail states specifically that the judge had granted the motion to strike and, as such, signing an order was merely a ministerial act. . . .

The trial court’s e-mail ruling was sufficiently clear and direct to be reviewed through mandamus. By waiting eight months after that ruling to seek mandamus relief and filing its petition three weeks before trial, Yamaha “waived through delay” its right to pursue mandamus relief of the trial court’s order striking the responsible third party designation.

I can’t agree with this decision (mainly because, until the court entered a signed written order, nothing in the record reflected any ruling), but at least we know where the court of appeals stands. Moral of the story: if you’re going to seek mandamus relief, move quickly, and it’s better to file for mandamus too soon than too late.

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