Friday, August 10, 2018

Grandparent standing established by agreement on appeal, case remanded to trial court

Standing is a jurisdictional issue. If there is no jurisdiction, the court can't grant any relief. Jurisdiction cannot normally be created by agreement, but there are exceptions, as illustrated by this case, where the parties agreed on appeal that facts existed to allow grandparent to pursue a suit affecting the parent-child relationship even though it had already been dismissed by the trial court for lack of standing. The agreement the parties reached was in the form of a Mediated Settlement Agreement. Johnson v Hardy, No. 01-17-00640-CV (Tex.App. - Houston, Aug. 9, 2018)

MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN GRANDPARENT ACCESS SUIT
MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN GRANDPARENT ACCESS SUIT

Opinion issued August 9, 2018

In The
Court of Appeals
For The
First District of Texas
————————————
NO. 01-17-00640-CV
———————————
STEPHANIE JOHNSON, Appellant
V.
BARRY HARDY AND SHAUN HARDY, Appellees

On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2
Galveston County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 14-FD-2773

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This is an appeal from the dismissal of a suit for lack of evidence to support a grandparent’s standing under Section 102.004(a)(1) of the Family Code. On appeal, the parties have entered into a mediated settlement agreement, in which the appellees agree that appellant “has standing to pursue her claim,” meaning the parties agree that adequate facts exist to support standing under Section 102.004(a)(1), and further agree that the matter should be remanded for appellant to pursue her claims. See TEX. FAM. CODE § 102.004(a)(1). We therefore vacate the trial court’s judgment of dismissal and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with the parties’ mediated settlement agreement. See TEX. R. APP. P.42.1(a)(2).

The appeal is dismissed as moot. See TEX. R. APP. P. 43.2(f).

PER CURIAM

Panel consists of Justices Massengale, Brown, and Caughey.



Monday, July 23, 2018

Maybe the Grass was Greener on the Other Side: Cow-in-the-Road Crash Case remanded for repleading under the Texas Tort Claims Act with more details on circumstances of cow's escape from the pasture

NEITHER-NOR CONCLUSION ON APPEAL:
THE PETITION DID NOT ESTABLISH JURISDICTION NOR AFFIRMATIVELY NEGATE JURISDICTION

BRAZORIA DRAINAGE DISTRICT NO. 4 v. KASSI MATTIES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF MINOR, No. 01-17-00422-CV (Tex.App. - Houston [1st Dist.] July 19, 2018) (Tort Claims case remanded in appeal from denial of plea to the jurisdiction asserted by drainage district to offer the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her pleadings to establish district's immunity waiver)

Collision with Cow Case 

 In The
Court of Appeals
For The
First District of Texas
————————————
NO. 01-17-00422-CV
———————————
BRAZORIA DRAINAGE DISTRICT NO. 4, Appellant
V.
KASSI MATTIES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF XXXXX
XXXXXXX, A MINOR, Appellees
On Appeal from the 149th District Court
Brazoria County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 91072-CV

BRAZORIA DRAINAGE DISTRICT NO. 4, Appellant,
v.
KASSI MATTIES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF XXXXX XXXXXXX, A MINOR, Appellees.

No. 01-17-00422-CV.
Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston.
Opinion issued July 19, 2018.
On Appeal from the 149th District Court, Brazoria County, Texas, Trial Court Case No. 91072-CV.
Panel consists of Justices Bland, Lloyd, and Caughey.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JENNIFER CAUGHEY, Justice.

In this interlocutory appeal, appellant Brazoria Drainage District No. 4 ("the Drainage District") challenges the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction. It argues, in part, that appellees failed to allege facts showing a valid waiver of governmental immunity. We agree and reverse the trial court's order. We remand to offer appellees an opportunity to replead.

Background

On behalf of herself and her minor child, appellee Kassi Matties brought this lawsuit arising out of her car's collision with a cow that was standing in the middle of the road. Matties was pregnant at the time, and she asserts that the cow, "roaming at large and unattended, caused the collision and significant permanent injuries to your Plaintiff and the subsequent premature birth of the minor Plaintiff." Matties contends that defendant George Alford owned the cow. The accident occurred on County Road 48 in Brazoria County.

Matties brings negligence claims against both George Alford and the Drainage District. In her claim against Alford, Matties alleges that the "occurrence was proximately caused by the negligence . . . of Defendant, GEORGE ALFORD."

She asserts her claim against the drainage district under Texas's Tort Claims Act. She alleges that the drainage district "created the dangerous condition and failed to adequately restrain the loose cow by failing to secure the gate that enclosed the pasture at issue." Matties further alleges that "the area where this incident occurred would be the responsibility of the Defendant, BRAZORIA DRAINAGE DISTRICT NO. 4, should an injury occur."

Discussion

In its sole issue, the Drainage District argues the lawsuit is barred by governmental immunity, so the trial court erred in denying its plea to the jurisdiction. We agree.

A. Standard of Review

We review a trial court's ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction de novo. State v. Holland, 221 S.W.3d 639, 642 (Tex. 2007). A plea to the jurisdiction based on governmental immunity from suit is a challenge to the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. See City of Waco v. Kirwan, 298 S.W.3d 618, 621 (Tex. 2009)Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 225-26 (Tex. 2004).

"When [as here] a plea to the jurisdiction challenges the pleadings, we determine if the pleader has alleged facts that affirmatively demonstrate the court's jurisdiction to hear the cause." Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226see also Dall. Area Rapid Transit v. Whitley, 104 S.W.3d 540, 542 (Tex. 2003) ("In a suit against a governmental unit, the plaintiff must affirmatively demonstrate the court's jurisdiction by alleging a valid waiver of immunity."); Williams v. City of Baytown, 467 S.W.3d 566, 571 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2015, no pet.) (same).

If the pleading contains facts that do not affirmatively demonstrate, but also do not affirmatively negate, jurisdiction, we face "an issue of pleading sufficiency and the plaintiff should be given an opportunity to amend the pleadings." Kirwan, 298 S.W.3d at 622 (quoting Miranda, 133 S.W.3d. at 226-27).

B. Applicable Law—Waiver of Immunity Under Tort Claims Act

Governmental immunity defeats a trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Rogge v. City of Richmond, 506 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.). It protects political subdivisions of the State from lawsuits unless the Legislature specifically waives immunity. Id. at 574.

The Tort Claims Act, which provides a limited waiver of immunity, applies to political subdivisions, including drainage districts like Brazoria Drainage District No. 4. See id.; see also TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.001(3)(B); TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.025; see also Dall. Cty. Mental Health & Mental Retardation v. Bossley, 968 S.W.2d 339, 342-43 (Tex. 1998). Relevant here, section 101.021 of the Tort Claims Act provides that a governmental unit (including a drainage district) can be held liable for personal injury and death proximately caused "by a condition or use of tangible personal or real property if the governmental unit would, were it a private person, be liable to the claimant according to Texas law." TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.021(2).

C. Analysis

The parties debate whether this action constitutes a premises defect or negligent activity claim. We need not resolve that question because, under either theory of liability, appellees have not alleged facts that affirmatively demonstrate the court's jurisdiction.

1. Premises Defect

"When `liability is predicated not upon the actions of the governmental unit's employees but by reference to the duty of care owed by the governmental unit to the claimant for premise and special defects as specified in section 101.022 of the . . . Tort Claims Act,'" the claim alleges a premises defect. Rogge, 506 S.W.3d at 575 (quoting DeWitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 653 (Tex. 1995)). For premises defect claims, the Legislature linked the applicable duty to the common law. Sampson v. Univ. of Tex. at Austin, 500 S.W.3d 380, 387 (Tex. 2016). In particular, section 101.022(a) of the Act states:
(a) Except as provided in Subsection (c), if a claim arises from a premise defect, the governmental unit owes to the claimant only the duty that a private person owes to a licensee on private property, unless the claimant pays for the use of the premises.
TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.022(a).[1]

"A licensee asserting a premises-defect claim generally must show, first, that the defendant possessed—that is, owned, occupied, or controlled—the premises where the injury occurred." Cty. of Cameron v. Brown, 80 S.W.3d 549, 554 (Tex. 2002) (citing Wilson v. Tex. Parks & Wildlife Dep't, 8 S.W.3d 634, 635 (Tex. 1999) (per curiam)); see also City of Pearland v. Contreras, No. 01-15-00345-CV, 2016 WL 358612, at *3 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Jan. 28, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op.) ("In a premises liability case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a legal duty to warn of a defective condition of the premises or otherwise make them safe. To impose a legal duty on a governmental defendant, the plaintiff must show that the governmental unit owned, occupied or controlled the premises where the accident occurred." (internal citation omitted)).

Thus, a plaintiff must show that a governmental unit "assumed sufficient control over the part of the premises that presented the alleged danger so that the defendant had the responsibility to remedy it." Brown, 80 S.W.3d at 556. Additionally, to prevail on a premises defect claim, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of some condition on the premises; (2) the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm; (3) the owner did not exercise reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the unreasonable risk of harm; and (4) the owner's failure to use reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the unreasonable risk of harm proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries. LMB, Ltd. v. Moreno, 201 S.W.3d 686, 688 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam).

Here, appellees do not assert that the Drainage District owned, occupied, or controlled the premises that presented the alleged danger (i.e. the unsecured gate) such that the drainage district had a legal duty to warn or otherwise make the premises safe. See Brown, 80 S.W.3d at 554. Similarly, they do not assert any facts demonstrating that the drainage district had actual knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. To the extent that appellees assert a premises defect claim, they have failed to allege facts supporting a waiver of governmental immunity. See Brown, 80 S.W.3d at 554Contreras, 2016 WL 358612, at *3-4.

2. Condition or Use of Tangible Personal Property

If we instead view appellees' claim as one for negligent activity (use of property), appellees have similarly failed to allege facts demonstrating the court's jurisdiction.

"[N]egligent activity encompasses a malfeasance theory based on affirmative, contemporaneous conduct by the owner that caused the injury . . . ." Rogge, 506 S.W.3d at 575 (alteration in original) (quoting Del Lago Partners, Inc. v. Smith, 307 S.W.3d 762, 776 (Tex. 2010)). "Use" has been defined to mean "to put or bring into action or service; to employ for or apply to a given purpose." Id. at 576 (quoting Sampson, 500 S.W.3d at 388). "[T]o state a `use' of tangible personal property claim under the Tort Claims Act, the injury must be contemporaneous with the use of the tangible personal property—'[u]sing that property must have actually caused the injury.'" Id. (quoting Sampson, 500 S.W.3d at 388).

Importantly, the Tort Claims Act waives immunity for a "use of personal property" only when the governmental unit is itself the user. San Antonio State Hosp. v. Cowan, 128 S.W.3d 244, 245-46 (Tex. 2004). A governmental unit does not "use" personal property merely by allowing someone else to use it. Rusk State Hosp. v. Black, 392 S.W.3d 88, 97 (Tex. 2012)see also Cowan, 128 S.W.3d at 246 ("[T]he Hospital's immunity can be waived only for its own use of Cowan's walker and suspenders, and not by Cowan[`]s use of them.").

Here, the alleged "use" is a failure to secure a gate. But appellees do not plead facts supporting an allegation that the district itself, rather than anyone else, left the gate unsecured.

[2] See Black, 392 S.W.3d at 97 (section 101.021(2) waives immunity for claims involving the use of tangible personal property "only when the governmental unit itself uses the property"); Cowan, 128 S.W.3d at 245-46Univ. of Tex. M.D. Anderson Cancer Ctr. v. McKenzie, 529 S.W.3d 177, 185 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, pet. filed) (to properly state claim waiving governmental immunity, plaintiff must allege property was used or misused by government employee) (citing Lacy v. Rusk State Hosp., 31 S.W.3d 625, 629 (Tex. App.-Tyler 2000, no pet.)); see also Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 238 ("The plaintiff must plead facts that, if true, would establish that the claims come within an express waiver of sovereign immunity. . . ."). Appellees similarly fail to plead facts demonstrating when anyone allegedly failed to secure the gate and whether that failure was contemporaneous with appellees' injury. See Rogge, 506 S.W.3d at 576-77 (to state a "use" of tangible personal property claim under the Tort Claims Act, the injury must be contemporaneous with the use of the tangible personal property).
Because appellees do not plead facts showing that the district "used" the gate in a way that would lead to a waiver of immunity, appellees' pleading is insufficient under Texas law. See Black, 392 S.W.3d at 95Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 238Rogge, 506 S.W.3d at 576-77McKenzie, 529 S.W.3d at 185Lacy, 31 S.W.3d at 629.

Because appellees have failed to allege facts that would establish a waiver of immunity, the trial court erred by denying the district's plea to the jurisdiction. We thus reverse. We remand, however, to offer appellees an opportunity to replead.

Although the pleadings do not establish jurisdiction, when construed in appellees' favor, they also do not affirmatively negate jurisdiction. The drainage district has not eliminated the possibility that appellees could, if allowed to replead, affirmatively demonstrate jurisdiction. See Smith v. Galveston Cty., 326 S.W.3d 695, 698 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, no pet.). Accordingly, we remand for the trial court to afford appellees a reasonable opportunity to amend their pleadings. See Kirwan, 298 S.W.3d at 622Smith, 326 S.W.3d at 698City of Freeport v. Briarwood Holdings, L.L.C., No. 01-11-01108-CV, 2013 WL 1136576, at *5 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Mar. 19, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.) (where pleadings did not affirmatively demonstrate or negate jurisdiction, appellate court was required to remand to allow plaintiff reasonable opportunity to amend to allege facts that would support waiver of sovereign immunity).

Conclusion

We reverse the trial court's order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


[1] Subsection (c) provides that if a claim "arises from a premise defect on a toll highway, road, or street, the governmental unit owes to the claimant only the duty that a private person owes to a licensee on private property." TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.022(c).



[2] Appellees do not say how the district may have used the gate. They allege no facts suggesting that the district did anything in particular to the gate. They also do not say whether the district owned or controlled the gate, or if the district was in any way responsible for the gate. Conclusory allegations are insufficient under Texas law. See, e.g., Wharton Cty. v. Genzer, No. 13-06-078-CV, 2007 WL 4442445, at *3 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi Dec. 20, 2007, no pet.) (mem. op.) ("`When a plea to the jurisdiction challenges the pleadings, we determine if the pleader has alleged facts that affirmatively demonstrate the court's jurisdiction to hear the cause.' This inquiry becomes meaningless, though, if a pleader must only assert pleadings comprised of vague, conclusory statements to establish jurisdiction" (citation omitted)). See also Bernhard v. City of Aransas Pass, No. 13-13-00354-CV, 2014 WL 3541677, at *5 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi July 17, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.); City of El Paso v. Collins, 440 S.W.3d 879, 886-87 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2013, no pet.) (although pleadings alleged "that the [swimming-pool] drain, drain cover, and filtration system are defective, they have not included any factual allegation that [injured child] nearly drowned because she became entangled or trapped in the drain or filtration system or that rescue was delayed because the cloudy water prohibited caretakers from observing what had occurred" (emphasis in original)).



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

First COA Panel splits on whether right to arbitrate was waived by litigation conduct;

In re Vantage Drilling International, Vantage Deepwater Drilling, Inc., and Vantage Energy Services, Inc., No. 01-17-00592-CV (Tex.App. - Houston [1st Dist.] June 5, 2018) 

Justice Keyes pens vigorous dissent, charging peers with eviscerating SCOTX's waiver precedent in Perry Homes v. Cull. 

DISSENTING OPINION

KEYES, J., dissenting. 

I respectfully dissent from the majority opinion denying Vantage Drilling International's (Vantage's) petition for writ of mandamus, which requests that we direct the trial court to vacate its order compelling arbitration in this case. The majority opinion effectively annuls the important procedural protection of waiver of the right to arbitrate by substantial litigation conduct.

The majority opinion fails even to acknowledge, much less to apply, the test of waiver of the right to arbitrate by substantial litigation conduct established by the Texas Supreme Court in Perry Homes v. Cull[1] and reaffirmed in Henry v. Cash Biz, LP.[2] The majority then effectively annuls this important procedural right by concluding that Vantage has an adequate remedy by appeal. I would hold that Vantage has demonstrated just the opposite. By approving the trial court's order sending this case to arbitration, the majority allows the real party in interest to take the spoils of its abusive discovery practices over almost a year and its insight into the trial court's skeptical perception of its case gained through litigation conduct into its newly-sought arbitration proceedings, thereby avoiding the trial court's ruling on Vantage's motion for partial summary judgment filed against it and creating a new playing field.
[1] 258 S.W.3d 580 (Tex. 2008).
[2] ___ S.W.3d ___, No. 16-0854, 2018 WL 1022838 (Tex. Feb. 23, 2018).
As this case satisfies every factor of the Perry Homes and Henry test for waiver of arbitration by litigation conduct, and as Vantage has shown that it lacks an adequate remedy by appeal, I conclude that compelling arbitration of this case violates important substantive and procedural rights of the respondent that cannot be protected through any other legal mechanism than reversal of the trial court's order. I would hold that Vantage has shown a clear abuse of discretion by the trial court. Therefore, I would grant the petition.

Background

Martinez Partners, a law firm, represented Vantage in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation and related matters, but the engagements were terminated, and Vantage hired a new law firm. Vantage did not pay some of Martinez Partners' legal fees, so Martinez Partners sued Vantage and related entities (collectively, "Vantage") on a sworn account. The parties' engagement agreements contained arbitration clauses.

Martinez Partners—the movant below for arbitration—filed suit against Vantage in Harris County district court. Vantage answered and counterclaimed for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and money had and received.

The parties litigated for eleven months, including engaging in extensive document discovery into the lawsuit's merits. Martinez Partners amended its pleadings twice, propounded extensive written discovery, and pursued numerous motions to compel additional discovery. It also added an individual defendant and then nonsuited that defendant in response to a motion to dismiss, and it sought discovery on the motion to dismiss. It later sought sanctions against Vantage's counsel in connection with the dismissed claim. It served ten sets of merits-based written discovery on each of the three defendants. It attempted to avoid providing reciprocal discovery in response to Vantage's requests by disclaiming any obligation to search its principal's email account for communications responsive to Vantage's requests for production, and it rejected Vantage's request to make that principal available to be deposed. Only after an oral ruling from the trial court did Martinez Partners produce communications responsive to Vantage's requests.

At one point, Martinez Partners moved to compel the production of billing information about Vantage's new attorneys. During a hearing on that motion— Martinez Partners' second motion to compel—the key issue in the case arose: whether Texas law provides an offset to Martinez Partners' claims for unpaid invoices based on what Vantage claimed was the undisputed and undisclosed mark-up of almost half a million dollars that Martinez Partners had applied to third-party charges invoiced to Vantage. The trial court expressed doubt about Martinez Partners' legal position, telling Martinez Partners' counsel that "that will be real interesting at trial because in that case, I think you may have a problem. . . . That's going to be interesting if y'all try it, an interesting issue." Vantage soon thereafter filed a motion for partial summary judgment on its cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty.

Martinez Partners then filed a motion to compel arbitration under both Texas and federal arbitration statutes. Vantage responded, arguing that Martinez Partners had waived arbitration either explicitly, in comments it made to the trial court, or impliedly, by having substantially invoked the litigation process instead of seeking to initiate arbitration. While that motion was pending, Martinez Partners continued to press Vantage for supplemental document production and served more production requests. After the trial court heard preliminary argument on the arbitration issue, Martinez Partners served yet another set of production requests on Vantage.

The trial court ordered that the parties arbitrate all claims that had been asserted in the lawsuit and stayed the lawsuit pending the arbitration's outcome. Vantage petitioned for a writ of mandamus, and Martinez Partners responded. Vantage claims it spent almost $110,000 on Martinez Partners' discovery and incurred approximately $195,000 in legal fees in litigation prior to the trial court's order compelling arbitration.

Analysis

Vantage contends in its petition for a writ of mandamus that Martinez Partners waived the right to arbitrate by its conduct in litigation and that an appeal after a final judgment is inadequate to review its waiver argument. Applying the waiver standards promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court, I agree.

A. Standard of Review of Order Granting Motion to Compel Arbitration

The majority has set out at length the high standard for obtaining reversal of an order granting arbitration. Essentially, when both the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and the Texas General Arbitration Act (TGAA) apply to an arbitration clause, as here, Texas courts must align the availability of appellate review under Texas procedure as consistently as possible with availability of appellate review under federal procedure. In re Poly-America, L.P., 262 S.W.3d 337, 345 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding). "Although mandamus review is generally available in federal courts to review non-appealable interlocutory rulings, mandamus is granted only in exceptional cases." Id.

However, despite the strong federal and state barriers to mandamus review of an order granting arbitration, "[e]ven when an order is not reviewable by interlocutory appeal, that does not always preclude review by mandamus." In re Gulf Expl., LLC, 289 S.W.3d 836, 842 (Tex. 2009) (orig. proceeding). "To be entitled to mandamus, a petitioner must show that the trial court clearly abused its discretion and that the relator has no adequate remedy by appeal." Id. (internal quotation omitted). "There is no definitive list of when an appeal will be `adequate,' as it depends on a careful balance of the case-specific benefits and detriments of delaying or interrupting a particular proceeding." Id.; see also In re McAllen Med. Ctr., Inc., 275 S.W.3d 458, 464 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding) ("Whether a clear abuse of discretion can be adequately remedied by appeal depends on a careful analysis of costs and benefits of interlocutory review."). "[S]tanding alone, delay and expense generally do not render a final appeal inadequate." In re Gulf Expl.,289 S.W.3d at 842.

Mandamus "may be essential to preserve important substantive and procedural rights from impairment or loss, [and] allow the appellate courts to give needed and helpful direction to the law that would otherwise prove elusive in appeals from final judgments.'" In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 843 (quoting In re Prudential Ins. Co., 148 S.W.3d 124, 136 (Tex. 2004)).

B. Waiver of Arbitration by Substantial Litigation Conduct

Here, the issue is waiver of arbitration by substantial litigation conduct. This is precisely the kind of important procedural right the Texas Supreme Court held in In re Gulf Exploration and in In re Prudential that mandamus "may be essential to preserve . . . from impairment or loss" and may "allow the appellate courts to give needed and helpful direction to the law" that would elude analysis on appeal from a final judgment. See id.; In re Prudential Ins. Co., 148 S.W.3d at 136.

The issue of waiver of arbitration by substantial litigation conduct is an issue for the courts rather than the arbitrators. Perry Homes v. Cull, 258 S.W.3d 580, 598 (Tex. 2008). "[A] party waives an arbitration clause by substantially invoking the judicial process to the other party's detriment or prejudice." Id. at 589-90. "[T]his hurdle is a high one" because of the strong presumption against waiver of arbitration. Id. at 590. However, "`allowing a party to conduct full discovery, file motions going to the merits, and seek arbitration on the eve of trial' would be sufficient" to constitute waiver. Id. (quoting In re Vesta Ins. Group, Inc., 192 S.W.3d 759, 764 (Tex. 2006)). Arbitration can be waived if the parties have agreed to resolve a dispute in court; and "[s]uch waiver can be implied from a party's conduct, although that conduct must be unequivocal." Id. at 593.

To establish implied waiver of the right to arbitrate by substantial invocation of the judicial process, "the [non-movant] ha[s] the burden to prove that (1) [the party moving for arbitration] substantially invoked the judicial process in a manner inconsistent with its claimed right to compel arbitration, and (2) the [non-movant] suffered actual prejudice as a result of the inconsistent conduct." Henry v. Cash Biz, LP, ___ S.W.3d ___, No.16-0854, 2018 WL 1022838, *4 (Tex. Feb. 23, 2018) (citing G.T. Leach Builders, LLC v. Sapphire V.P., L.P., 458 S.W.3d 502, 511-12 (Tex. 2015), and Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 589-90).
How much invocation of the litigation process is "substantial" depends on the context and is similar to estoppel. Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 593. For instance, "[a] party who enjoys substantial direct benefits by gaining an advantage in the pretrial litigation process should be barred from turning around and seeking arbitration with the spoils." Id.However, "[e]ven substantially invoking the judicial process does not waive a party's arbitration rights unless the opposing party proves that it suffered prejudice as a result." Id. (quoting In re Bruce Terminix Co., 988 S.W.2d 702, 704 (Tex. 1998) (orig. proceeding)).

C. The Totality of the Circumstances Test for Waiver by Substantial Litigation Conduct

Waiver of the right to compel arbitration by litigation conduct must be decided on a case-by-case basis under a totality-of-the-circumstances test established by the Texas Supreme Court in Perry Homes and recently reiterated in Henry. See id. at 591. The relevant factors established in Perry Homes include:
• when the movant knew of the arbitration clause;
• how much discovery has been conducted;
• who initiated it;
• whether it related to the merits rather than arbitrability or standing;
• how much of it would be useful in arbitration; and
• whether the movant sought judgment on the merits.
Id. at 591-92. The supreme court has recently reaffirmed this test in Henry, stating:
Here, the factors generally examined to determine waiver—how much discovery has been conducted, who initiated it, and whether it relates to the merits; how much time and expense has been incurred in litigation; and the proximity in time between a trial setting and the filing of the motion seeking arbitration—may serve as guideposts.
2018 WL 1022838, at *4.

Under Perry Homes and Henry, the courts will defer to the trial court's factual findings if they are supported by the evidence, but where there is "no factual dispute . . . regarding whether the [movant] initially opposed arbitration, whether they conducted extensive merits discovery, or whether they sought arbitration late in the litigation process," and where the only remaining question is the legal question of whether the movant's conduct prejudiced the non-movant, the appellate courts may decide the issue of waiver as a matter of law. Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 598.

To determine whether a party has substantially invoked the judicial process, "courts consider a wide variety of factors and look to the specifics of each case." Henry, 2018 WL 1022838, at *4; G.T. Leach Builders, LLC, 458 S.W.3d at 512. "The necessary conduct must go beyond merely filing suit or seeking initial discovery." Henry, 2018 WL 1022838, at *4 (citing Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 590). The courts will find waiver only in "the most unequivocal of circumstances." Id. (citing Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 595-96).

The court in Henry cited Perry Homes as a case that was illustrative of unequivocal waiver, noting that "the plaintiffs waived the right to arbitrate by participating in extensive discovery including hundreds of requests for production and interrogatories, then requesting arbitration fourteen months after filing suit and only four days prior to the scheduled trial date." Id. The court contrasted the substantial invocation of the judicial process by the plaintiffs in Perry Homes with the much lesser participation by plaintiffs in other cases in which arbitration was subsequently granted. Id. (citing G.T. Leach Builders, LLC, 458 S.W.3d at 512 (holding plaintiffs did not waive arbitration by asserting counterclaims; seeking change of venue; filing motions to designate responsible third parties, for continuance, and to quash depositions; designating experts; and waiting six months to move for arbitration), In re Fleetwood Homes of Tex., L.P., 257 S.W.3d 692, 694 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding) (holding party did not waive arbitration by noticing deposition, serving written discovery, and waiting eight months to move for arbitration), and In re Bruce Terminix Co., 988 S.W.2d at 703-04 (holding arbitration was not waived by sending eighteen interrogatories and nineteen requests for production and waiting six months to seek arbitration)).

In Perry Homes, the plaintiffs initially opposed arbitration, complaining at length about the incompetence, bias, and unfairness of arbitration, and they asked the court to deny Perry Homes' motion to compel arbitration. 258 S.W.3d at 595-96. They then noticed six designees for deposition on nine issues with an attachment requesting sixty-seven categories of documents and noticed the depositions of three of Perry Homes' experts, requesting twenty-four categories of documents. Id. The Texas Supreme Court concluded, "There is simply no question on this record that [the plaintiffs] conducted extensive discovery about every aspect of the merits." Id. at 596. After having initially opposed arbitration, the plaintiffs moved for arbitration fourteen months after filing suit and shortly before the trial setting, which the supreme court found to be "very late in the trial process" and after most of the discovery had been completed. Id. The court also concluded that it was "also unquestionably true that this conduct prejudiced [the non-movant defendant, Perry Homes]." Id. at 597.

The supreme court concluded, "Such manipulation of litigation for one party's advantage and another's detriment is precisely the kind of inherent unfairness that constitutes prejudice under federal and state law." Id. After finding prejudice to Perry Homes, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals' judgment, vacated the $800,000 award the plaintiffs had obtained in arbitration, and remanded the case to the trial court "for a prompt trial." Id. at 585, 601.

D. Application of the Perry Homes Factors to Order Compelling Arbitration in This Case

The abusive manipulation of the proceedings in this case by Martinez Partners is virtually identical to that in Perry Homes, and the prejudice to Vantage is just as great as the prejudice to the non-movant in Perry Homes under the relevant factors:
• There is no question that Martinez Partners knew of the arbitration clauses in both its and Vantage's engagement agreements;
• Martinez Partners itself filed the litigation;
• The parties litigated for eleven months, including extensive document discovery into the lawsuit's merits;
• Martinez Partners amended its pleadings twice, propounded extensive written discovery, and pursued numerous motions to compel additional discovery;
• It also added an individual defendant and then nonsuited that defendant in response to a motion to dismiss and sought discovery on that motion;
• It sought sanctions against Vantage's counsel in connection with the dismissed claim;
• It served ten sets of merits-based written discovery on each of the three defendants; and it attempted to avoid providing reciprocal discovery in response to Vantage's requests by disclaiming any obligation to search its principal's email account for communications responsive to Vantage's requests for production, rejected Vantage's request to make him available to be deposed, and only produced communications responsive to Vantage's requests after an oral ruling from the court;
• Martinez Partners filed a motion to compel arbitration under both Texas and federal arbitration statutes only after the trial court expressed doubt about its legal position at a hearing on its second motion to compel when the key issue in the case arose: whether Texas law provides an offset to Martinez Partners' claims for unpaid invoices based on what Vantage claims was the undisputed and undisclosed mark-up of almost half a million dollars that Martinez Partners applied to third-party charges invoiced to Vantage;
• Martinez Partners moved for arbitration only after summary judgment had been filed against it; and
• Even after the trial court heard preliminary argument on arbitration, Martinez Partners served yet another set of production requests on Vantage, with all of its previous requests for document production and motions to compel.

Martinez Partners' litigation conduct satisfies every one of the factors set out by the Texas Supreme Court in Perry Homes for courts to consider in determining whether a party has waived arbitration and is at least as egregious, if not more egregious, than the litigation conduct found by the supreme court in Perry Homes to constitute waiver of arbitration. See id. at 591-92. Thus, I would conclude that Vantage Drilling established an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

E. Lack of Adequate Remedy by Appeal

I would likewise hold that the prejudice to Vantage under the circumstances here cannot be remedied on appeal. Whether an appellate remedy is adequate is a practical, prudential determination based on a balancing of public and private interests. See In re Prudential, 148 S.W.3d at 136. The Texas Supreme Court has held:
Mandamus review of significant rulings in exceptional cases may be essential to preserve important substantive and procedural rights from impairment or loss, allow the appellate courts to give needed and helpful direction to the law that would otherwise prove elusive in appeals from final judgments, and spare private parties and the public the time and money utterly wasted enduring eventual reversal of improperly conducted proceedings.
Id. Here, these factors favor granting mandamus relief.

Any appeal of an eventual arbitration award would be clearly inadequate to compensate Vantage for Martinez Partners' litigation conduct adverse to the right to compel arbitration. Martinez Partners has effectively bought itself a new forum in which it has all the advantages of the vast amount of abusive discovery it obtained from Vantage, as well as the advantage of its own resistance to discovery, and the new forum's lack of familiarity with the circumstances that led the trial court to express skepticism as to Martinez Partners' case and Vantage to file summary judgment against it. I would conclude that this an "exceptional case" in which mandamus relief is "essential to preserve important substantive and procedural rights from impairment or loss[.]" See id.

Regarding the considerations of wasted time and money, I further observe that, in this case, there is no rapid, inexpensive alternative to traditional litigation. And all of the conditions for granting mandamus from an order compelling arbitration established in Perry Homes are met. There is "no factual dispute . . . regarding whether [Martinez Partners] initially opposed arbitration, whether [it] conducted extensive merits discovery, or whether [it] sought arbitration late in the litigation process." See Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 598. Despite an arbitration clause in its agreement with Vantage, Martinez Partners brought this litigation, conducted extensive merits discovery for almost a year, engaged vigorously in the litigation process at great expense to Vantage, and, only when the trial court questioned its ability to prevail at trial and summary judgment had been filed, moved for arbitration while continuing to litigate and to seek additional discovery up to the date its motion to compel arbitration was granted. See id.; see also In re Prudential, 148 S.W.3d at 136 (holding that mandamus relief may be essential to "spare private parties and the public the time and money utterly wasted enduring eventual reversal of improperly conducted proceedings").

The only question remaining to determine the adequacy of Vantage's remedy by appeal is whether Martinez Partners' conduct prejudiced Vantage. See id. And the clear answer to that question under In re Prudential is "yes," in that the loss of the important procedural right to waiver of arbitration under circumstances such as those present in this case "radically skew[s] the procedural dynamics of the case" and causes "the irreversible waste of judicial and public resources." See 148 S.W.3d at 136-37.
Vantage's loss of the entire benefit of Martinez Partners' unequivocal waiver of the right to arbitrate by the trial court's order compelling arbitration requires the conclusion that the trial court clearly abused its discretion and that Vantage has no adequate remedy by appeal.

Conclusion

I would conditionally grant the petition for mandamus.

IN RE VANTAGE DRILLING INTERNATIONAL, VANTAGE DEEPWATER DRILLING, INC., AND VANTAGE ENERGY SERVICES, INC., Relators.

No. 01-17-00592-CV.
Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston.
Opinion issued June 5, 2018.
Robert Arthur, Whitney Rawlinson, Christopher Paul Hanslik, for Vantage Drilling International, Vantage Deepwater Drilling, Inc., and Vantage Energy Services, Inc., Relator.
Christian `Chris' P. Di Ferrante, for Martinez Partners, LLP, Real party in interest.
Original Proceeding on Petition for Writ of Mandamus.

Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Brown, and Lloyd.

OPINION

RUSSELL LLOYD, Justice.

Vantage Drilling International and its affiliates (collectively, "Vantage") petition for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court[1] to vacate its order compelling arbitration of all claims currently asserted between them and Martinez Partners, LLP. Vantage asserts that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in compelling arbitration because (1) Martinez Partners waived arbitration and (2) a final appeal would be inadequate to review the alleged waiver. Because Vantage has not shown the inadequacy of a final appeal, we deny the petition.

Background

Martinez Partners, a law firm, represented Vantage in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation and related matters, but the engagement was terminated, and Vantage hired a new law firm. Vantage did not pay some of Martinez Partners' legal fees, so Martinez Partners sued Vantage on a sworn account. The parties' engagement agreements contain arbitration clauses.

Martinez Partners filed its suit in Harris County district court. Vantage answered and counterclaimed for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and money had and received. Vantage's counterclaims were partially based on an allegation of improper mark-ups. Martinez Partners had engaged a document-review vendor to assist in the representation. According to Vantage, Martinez Partners paid the vendor at fixed hourly rates for the vendor's attorney document reviewers and then passed those costs through to Vantage at higher hourly rates without disclosing to Vantage that the attorney document reviewers were not Martinez Partners employees.

The parties litigated for eleven months, including extensive document discovery into the lawsuit's merits. Nine months into the lawsuit, during a hearing on a discovery motion, Vantage's allegation that Martinez Partners failed to disclose that the document reviewers were not Martinez Partners employees was referred to. The trial court commented to Martinez Partners' counsel, "that will be real interesting at trial because in that case, I think you may have a problem. . . . That's going to be interesting if y'all try it, an interesting issue." Vantage soon thereafter filed a motion for partial summary judgment on its cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty.

In month eleven of the lawsuit, Martinez Partners filed a motion to compel arbitration. Vantage responded, arguing that Martinez Partners had waived arbitration either explicitly, in comments its attorney made to the trial court, or impliedly, by substantially invoking the litigation process instead of seeking to initiate arbitration. The engagement letters signed by both parties establish that the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") governs the arbitration clauses.

The trial court ordered the parties to arbitrate all claims asserted in the lawsuit and stayed the lawsuit pending the arbitration's outcome. Vantage petitioned for mandamus, and Martinez Partners responded.

Final Appeal is Adequate for Reviewing Vantage's Waiver Argument

Vantage contends that an appeal after a final judgment is inadequate to review its assertion that Martinez Partners waived arbitration. The dissent agrees with the position that arbitration was waived. However, we do not address the waiver argument because Vantage has an adequate remedy by appeal.

I. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

A. Mandamus standard and adequacy of final appeal

A petitioner must meet both prongs of a two-part test in order to be entitled to mandamus: "To be entitled to mandamus, a petitioner must show that the trial court clearly abused its discretion and that the relator has no adequate remedy by appeal." In re Gulf Expl., LLC, 289 S.W.3d 836, 842 (Tex. 2009) (orig. proceeding) (internal quotation omitted). Mandamus issues "to preserve important substantive and procedural rights from impairment or loss, [and] allow[s] the appellate courts to give needed and helpful direction to the law that would otherwise prove elusive in appeals from final judgments." See id. at 843 (first alteration in original; second added).

"In the context of orders compelling arbitration, even if a petitioner can meet the first requirement, mandamus is generally unavailable because it can rarely meet the second." Id. at 842. "There is no definitive list of when an appeal will be `adequate,' as it depends on a careful balance of the case-specific benefits and detriments of delaying or interrupting a particular proceeding." Id.; see also In re McAllen Med. Ctr., Inc., 275 S.W.3d 458, 464 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding) ("Whether a clear abuse of discretion can be adequately remedied by appeal depends on a careful analysis of costs and benefits of interlocutory review"). Neither the FAA nor the Texas General Arbitration Act ("TGAA") encourage immediate review of orders compelling arbitration. As a direct result, "any balancing must tilt strongly against mandamus review." In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842. "[T]he balance will generally tilt toward reviewing orders compelling arbitration only on final appeal." Id. at 843.

The required balancing tilts heavily against granting mandamus even if requiring the parties to wait for a final appeal results in wasted time and money: "Of course, if an order compelling arbitration is wrong, the parties may waste time and money in arbitration. But standing alone, delay and expense generally do not render a final appeal inadequate." Id. at 842.

If an order compelling arbitration is found to have been error, the attorneys' fees spent on the arbitration are generally recoverable because arbitration generally involves prosecuting contract claims: "[A]rbitration clauses are usually contractual and cover contractual claims. A party that prevails on a contractual claim can recover its fees and expenses, even if they were incurred in collateral proceedings like arbitration." Id. at 842-43.

B. Mandamus review under the FAA and TGAA

When the FAA applies to an arbitration clause, Texas courts must align appellate review under Texas procedure as consistently as possible with appellate review under federal procedure. In re Poly-America, L.P., 262 S.W.3d 337, 345 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding). "Although mandamus review is generally available in federal courts to review non-appealable interlocutory rulings, mandamus is granted only in exceptional cases." Id.; see also In re Palacios, 221 S.W.3d 564, 565 (Tex. 2006) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam).

If a trial court compels arbitration and dismisses the underlying lawsuit, under both federal and Texas procedure, a party generally may seek review of the order compelling arbitration by directly appealing the final judgment of dismissal. See In re Palacios, 221 S.W.3d at 565. However, if the trial court compels arbitration and stays the underlying lawsuit, interlocutory relief through mandamus is generally unavailable, and a petitioner for mandamus must meet a "particularly heavy" burden. See id.; In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842-43 (describing strong "tilt" against mandamus review of orders compelling arbitration).

Interlocutory appeals of orders compelling arbitration are disfavored under both the FAA and the TGAA. The FAA expressly forbids them. 9 U.S.C. § 16(b)(2), (3) (2016). Texas law impliedly forbids them because the TGAA expressly allows interlocutory appeals of orders denying arbitration with no similar allowance for orders compelling arbitration and because the above-referenced provision of the FAA is expressly incorporated into Texas law. See TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. §§ 51.016 (West 2015) (permitting interlocutory appeals of arbitration-related matters only to the extent they would be permitted by 9 U.S.C. § 16), 171.098(a)(1) (West 2011) (expressly permitting appeal of an order denying an application to compel arbitration); Perry Homes v. Cull, 258 S.W.3d 580, 586 & n.11 (Tex. 2008).
The strong federal presumption in favor of arbitration extends to cases involving a litigant's alleged waiver of arbitration. The FAA "establishes that, as a matter of federal law, any doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration, whether the problem at hand is the construction of the contract language itself or an allegation of waiver, delay, or a like defense to arbitrability." Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983) (emphasis added). The same preference for arbitration applies in waiver cases under the TGAA. See Ellis v. Schlimmer, 337 S.W.3d 860, 862 (Tex. 2011) (per curiam) ("Further, courts should resolve any doubts as to the agreement's scope, waiver, and other issues unrelated to its validity in favor of arbitration."); Cantella & Co. v. Goodwin, 924 S.W.2d 943, 944 (Tex. 1996) (per curiam) ("Federal and state law strongly favor arbitration. . . . Once a party seeking to compel arbitration establishes that an agreement exists under the FAA, and that the claims raised are within the agreement's scope, the trial court has no discretion but to compel arbitration and stay its proceedings pending arbitration." (internal quotation omitted)).

C. Reviewing orders compelling arbitration and reviewing orders denying arbitration involve different standards.

The appellate standards for reviewing an order compelling arbitration are inherently different from those involved in interlocutory review of an order denying arbitration under either the FAA or the TGAA.

The Supreme Court of Texas has recognized this dissimilarity: "[T]he FAA generally permits immediate appeal of orders hostile to arbitration . . . but bars appeal of interlocutory orders favorable to arbitration. . . . [M]ost states (including Texas) have adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act, which like the FAA authorizes immediate appeal only from orders denying arbitration." In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 839 (internal quotation omitted); see also In re Palacios, 221 S.W.3d at 566("We recognize there is some one-sidedness in reviewing only orders that deny arbitration, but not orders that compel it. Yet both the Federal and Texas acts leave little uncertainty that this is precisely what the respective legislatures intended.") (citing 9 U.S.C. § 16; TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 171.098).

This dissimilarity is not an anomaly; it is a conscious choice. It is a result of the legislative preference for discouraging interlocutory review of orders compelling arbitration: "[The FAA's] ban on interlocutory appeals of orders compelling arbitration was added by Congress in 1988 to prevent arbitration from bogging down in preliminary appeals. We have held that routine mandamus review of such orders in state court would frustrate this federal law." Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 586.

The legislative preference for arbitration makes access to mandamus relief more difficult in part because arbitration is represented to be a lower-cost, faster alternative to jury trials: "Because arbitration is intended to provide a lower-cost, expedited means to resolve disputes, mandamus proceedings will often, if not always, deprive the parties of an arbitration agreement's intended benefits when a compel-and-stay order is at issue; accordingly, courts should be hesitant to intervene." In re Poly-America, 262 S.W.3d at 347.

Our Supreme Court imposed this heavy burden on parties seeking interlocutory review of orders compelling arbitration knowing full well that it could result in a waste of the parties' resources to require the parties to arbitrate and only later have the referral to arbitration reviewed by a court:
We agree that post-arbitration review of referral may create . . . a huge waste of the parties' resources. But if review is available before arbitration, parties may also waste resources appealing every referral when a quick arbitration might settle the matter. Frequent pre-arbitration review would inevitably frustrate Congress's intent to move the parties to an arbitrable dispute out of court and into arbitration as quickly and easily as possible.
Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 587 (internal quotations omitted).

With all this in mind, we turn to the balancing of case-specific benefits and detriments of interrupting or delaying this referral to arbitration. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842.

II. The case-specific benefits of interrupting or delaying this referral to arbitration do not outweigh the detriments.

Vantage contends that the case-specific benefits of interrupting or delaying the referral of this case to arbitration demonstrate that it has no adequate remedy by appeal. Vantage contends that it will spend more time and money to arbitrate the case instead of continuing to litigate. It also contends that the time and money it has already spent in litigating would be wasted. Finally, it contends both that Martinez Partners should not be given its preference for arbitration because Martinez Partners' conduct is an impermissible tactical decision that prejudices Vantage and that the prejudice would be further compounded by waiting for a post-arbitration appeal.

A. Avoiding further delay and expense

This purported benefit is, on its own, no benefit at all under our Supreme Court's precedents. It is well-established that avoiding further delay and expense that would occur without mandamus intervention is no basis on its own for holding that a final appeal would be inadequate. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842Frontera Generation L.P. v. Mission Pipeline Co., 400 S.W.3d 102, 114-15 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2012, no pet.) (denying mandamus because final appeal would be adequate in spite of alleged risk that power plant belonging to litigant would have to remain shut down during arbitration). This is true in the arbitration context even assuming the possibility of "a huge waste of the parties' resources." See Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 587accord In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842.

This purported benefit, then, does not advance Vantage's position.

B. Time and money already spent would be wasted

This purported benefit has three problems.

First, most, if not all, of the attorneys' fees Vantage has spent in the litigation may be recoverable. Vantage pleaded a claim for attorneys' fees. Attorneys' fees are not unrecoverable simply because the parties arbitrate the claim rather than litigating it. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842-43 ("A party that prevails on a contractual claim can recover its fees and expenses, even if they were incurred in collateral proceedings like arbitration."). Vantage is suing on a contract and defending a contract suit, and its attorneys' fees incurred in pursuing that claim, or in pursuing or defending against sufficiently interrelated claims, may ultimately be recoverable. See, e.g., Tony Gullo Motors I, L.P. v. Chapa, 212 S.W.3d 299, 313-14 (Tex. 2006)Brockie v. Webb, 244 S.W.3d 905, 910 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2008, pet. denied).
Second, Vantage contends that its time spent in paper discovery is now wasted because the parties must arbitrate. However, Vantage has not shown that it will not be able to benefit from this paper discovery in the arbitration. Any evidence discovered so far could be admissible in the arbitration hearing, and, thus, may very well have not been wasted. See, e.g., Ellis v. Schlimmer, No. 13-09-00426-CV, 2011 WL 3821969, at *3 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi Aug. 24, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.) ("The modicum of discovery accomplished related to the merits of the case and could therefore be useful in arbitration.").

Third, Vantage relies in large part on In re Prudential Insurance Co. of America, 148 S.W.3d 124 (Tex. 2004) (orig. proceeding). In In re Prudential Insurance, the parties to a commercial lease litigated a dispute under the lease. Despite having agreed to waive the right to a jury trial for any dispute under the lease, the tenant nonetheless requested a jury trial. The landlord, Prudential, moved to quash the request for a jury trial, the trial court denied the motion, the Court of Appeals denied Prudential mandamus relief, and Prudential petitioned for mandamus in the Texas Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted mandamus and directed the trial court to grant Prudential's motion to quash the jury-trial request, holding that Prudential lacked an adequate remedy by appeal. The Court held that the contractual waiver of jury trial that the tenant had agreed to could never be recovered if Prudential were made to litigate the dispute before a jury:
In no real sense can the trial court's denial of Prudential's contractual right to have [tenant] waive a jury ever be rectified on appeal. If Prudential were to obtain judgment on a favorable jury verdict, it could not appeal, and its contractual right would be lost forever. If Prudential suffered judgment on an unfavorable verdict, Prudential could not obtain reversal for the incorrect denial of its contractual right "unless the court of appeals concludes that the error complained of . . . probably caused the rendition of an improper judgment". Even if Prudential could somehow obtain reversal based on the denial of its contractual right, it would already have lost a part of it by having been subject to the procedure it agreed to waive.
In re Prudential Ins. Co., 148 S.W.3d at 138. No analogous loss of contracted-for rights is at risk here. Indeed, Vantage agreed to arbitrate. Leaving the trial court's order compelling arbitration undisturbed enforces the parties' contracted-for arbitration rights.

The extreme cases that In re Prudential Insurance cited as demonstrating an inadequate remedy by appeal are distinguishable from this case. Generally, avoiding further expense and delay is, on its own, no basis for granting mandamus. An exception to that rule was identified in In re Prudential Insurance. It involved granting mandamus relief to protect a defendant from having to "defend[] the claims of more than 8,000 plaintiffs in litigation that would last for years." Id. at 136. There is no similar danger in Vantage's case. The court also noted that a grant of mandamus was necessary to correct a trial-court order that would "not only cost the carrier money but `radically skew[ed] the procedural dynamics of the case' by requiring the defendant to fund the plaintiff's prosecution of her claims." Id. (alteration in original). There is no risk of that in this case. The Court further noted that mandamus was necessary to correct a trial court, who "on its own motion and without any authority whatever, split two cases into sixteen and transferred venue of fourteen of them to other counties." Id. Mandamus was necessary there because of "the complete lack of authority for the trial court's order, and the impact on the legal system. We simply could not justify putting the civil justice system itself to the trouble of grinding through proceedings that were certain to be `little more than a fiction.'" Id. at 137. In contrast, the trial court here, instead of lacking authority to compel arbitration, was simply enforcing the parties' agreement to arbitrate. The only proceedings in the civil-justice system that Vantage can point to as being "little more than a fiction" is a potential future final appeal by Vantage in which Vantage invokes, and succeeds on, its objection to arbitration. The Supreme Court found this kind of relief to be adequate in Perry Homes. Vantage has not shown that its case is one of "those rare cases" where arbitration improperly compelled merits mandamus relief. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 843.

C. Martinez Partners' impermissible tactical conduct

Vantage also contends that overturning the trial court's order would avoid the inherent unfairness and prejudice caused by Martinez Partners' belated invocation of arbitration. Vantage contends that Martinez Partners was happy to litigate until the trial court made a comment that Vantage alleges could be interpreted as doubting the strength of Martinez Partners' case. Vantage points to no authority that litigating with such an alleged insight is to be valued above Congress's and the Texas Legislature's preference for arbitration as a vehicle for settling disputes. The judiciary's role among the other branches of government requires that we give deference to legislative priorities such as arbitration. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842 ("[I]n balancing these matters, our place in a government of separated powers requires us to consider also the priorities of the other branches of Texas government. Legislative acts encouraging or discouraging interlocutory review must weigh heavily in the balance of benefits and detriments. Here, as both the federal and state arbitration acts pointedly exclude immediate review of orders compelling arbitration, any balancing must tilt strongly against mandamus review." (internal quotation omitted)). Intervening via mandamus does harm to those priorities.

Vantage asserts that its position is supported by Perry Homes and Tuscan Builders, LP v. 1437 SH6 L.L.C., 438 S.W.3d 717 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet. denied)Perry Homes, however, demonstrates just how high the bar for waiver is set.[2]

Tuscan Builders was an interlocutory appeal from a denial of a motion to compel arbitration. Tuscan Builders, 438 S.W.3d at 718. Appeal from a denial is specifically permitted and favored by both the FAA and the TGAA. Therefore, Tuscan Buildersnecessarily involved different appellate standards for review than does this case. Further, there was no analysis of the adequacy of final appeal in Tuscan Builders.[3] Cf. In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 839In re Palacios, 221 S.W.3d at 566.

Given the heavy tilt in favor of arbitration that stems from the legislative priorities expressed in the FAA, the TGAA, and cases applying them, it appears that the detriments of disrupting the arbitration outweigh any benefits. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842. We resolve any doubts in favor of arbitration by declining to issue mandamus overruling the trial court's order compelling arbitration. See Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp., 460 U.S. at 24-25Ellis, 337 S.W.3d at 862.

III. Vantage's remaining cases are distinguishable.

Vantage relies on two arbitration mandamus cases—In re Sthran, 327 S.W.3d 839 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, orig. proceeding), and In re Villanueva, 311 S.W.3d 475 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2009, orig. proceeding [mand. dism'd]). They are both distinguishable.

In re Sthran is distinguishable because final appeal was found to be inadequate for reasons not present in Vantage's case. Sthran's husband had died in a nursing home. Sthran sued the nursing home for negligence. The trial court compelled arbitration under the nursing home's admission contract. Sthran petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order compelling arbitration. The court of appeals conditionally granted Sthran's petition, reasoning that Sthran had no adequate remedy by appeal because Sthran had not brought a contract claim and because "delay and expense in cases in which arbitration clauses cover contractual claims `generally do not render a final appeal inadequate.'" In re Sthran, 327 S.W.3d at 846 (quoting In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 843). Because Sthran's negligence action sounded in tort, forcing Sthran to wait for an appeal was an inadequate remedy because "it is not clear that any fees and expenses incurred as a result of arbitration will be recoverable." In re Sthran,327 S.W.3d at 846. Even if the improperly compelled arbitration could be undone on final appeal, the fees and expenses that Sthran would have to incur in arbitrating would never be recoverable because she asserted a tort cause of action. Had Sthran brought a contract action instead, the hypothetical arbitration fees and expenses could have been recoverable.

Second, Sthran's was "one of those `rare cases' when legislative mandates might be construed to conflict." Id. A provision of the Medical Liability Act entitled Sthran to notice of the admission contract's arbitration clause, but no such notice was provided. The court discussed how In re Gulf Exploration approves mandamus review for orders compelling arbitration in order to "preserve important substantive and procedural rights from impairment and loss. . . ." In re Sthran, 327 S.W.3d at 846 (quoting In re Gulf Expl.,289 S.W.3d at 843). The court agreed with Sthran that, because the admission contract did not comply with the Medical Liability Act's notice provision, her statutory right to notice could be protected only by mandamus.

Vantage cannot rely on In re Sthran because, first, Martinez Partners and Vantage both assert contract actions, and Vantage is asserting and defending against interrelated counterclaims. Vantage's legal expenses may later be shown to have advanced both its contract action and one or more of its other causes of action. Cf. Tony Gullo Motors I,212 S.W.3d at 313-14Brockie, 244 S.W.3d at 910. If, on final appeal, the referral to arbitration is found to be error, Vantage may seek to recover the arbitration fees and expenses it may have incurred. Further, Vantage identifies no statutory provisions whose enforcement would be impaired by an order compelling arbitration.

In re Villanueva is also distinguishable. Villanueva asserted a tort claim and not a contract claim. Further, Villanueva sued his employer for an on-the-job injury, and the trial court compelled arbitration under Villanueva's employment contract. The court of appeals held that the authority to compel arbitration came from Texas common law, not the FAA or TGAA. That was significant because "[m]andamus is the appropriate procedure by which we may review the trial court's ruling on a motion to compel arbitration under the common law." In re Villanueva, 311 S.W.3d at 481. The court then held that Texas common law rendered the arbitration clause void and unenforceable. Id.at 482.

However, Texas common law does not govern Vantage's case. Both parties agree that either or both of the FAA and the TGAA govern. Though mandamus may be appropriate for regularly reviewing orders compelling arbitration under Texas common law, see In re Villanueva, 311 S.W.3d at 481, it is generally not favored in most situations involving arbitration under the two statutes. See In re Gulf Expl., 289 S.W.3d at 842.

Vantage also cites In re Team Rocket, L.P., 256 S.W.3d 257 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding), which is a mandamus case that did not involve arbitration. It therefore did not address the strong preference for arbitration that In re Gulf Exploration emphasizes. Instead, the grant of mandamus there concerned litigants' statutory venue rights. A family had filed wrongful-death claims in Harris County, but venue was transferred to Williamson County. The family then nonsuited their case and re-filed the same lawsuit in Fort Bend County. The Fort Bend County court refused to transfer venue to Williamson County, and the defendants petitioned for a writ of mandamus. The court conditionally granted the writ to protect the defendants' statutory venue rights: "To say that the Fort Bend County trial court, which violated statutory venue procedure and [TEX. R. CIV. P.] 87(5), committed reversible error while declining to correct the injustice would compromise the integrity of the venue statute and result in an irreversible waste of resources." In re Team Rocket, 256 S.W.3d at 263.

The danger of "compromis[ing] the integrity of the" waiver doctrine is much less compelling here than the danger of compromising statutory venue rights was in In re Team Rocket. Perry Homes stands for the proposition that, in most cases, waiver of arbitration can be adequately addressed on final appeal. In contrast, the proper application of the venue statute in In re Team Rocket could not have been protected without mandamus because the defendants would have been forced to litigate in a forum where venue was improper. In re Team Rocket, like In re Sthran, involved using mandamus to preserve statutory rights, but Vantage asserts no statutory rights that require mandamus protection.

Vantage may challenge the referral to arbitration after the arbitration is completed as contemplated by both In re Gulf Exploration and Perry Homes. Because final appeal is adequate for Vantage, it is not entitled to mandamus relief.

Conclusion

We deny the petition for mandamus.[4]

[1] The underlying case is Cause No. 2016-27737; Martinez Partners, LLP v. Offshore Group Investment Limited d/b/a Vantage Drilling International, Vantage Deepwater Drilling, Inc., and Vantage Energy Services, Inc.; In the 133rd District Court of Harris County, Texas; Hon. Jaclanel McFarland presiding.
[2] "To date, we have never found such a waiver. . . ." Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d at 590.
[3] The same is true for Okorafor v. Uncle Sam & Associates, Inc., 295 S.W.3d 27 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, pet. denied), on which Vantage also relies. That case reviewed an order denying arbitration. See above at section I.C.
[4] We also deny as moot Vantage's pending Motion for Temporary Relief.

In re Vantage Drilling International, No. 01-17-00592-CV 
(Tex.App. - Houston [1st Dist.] June 5, 2018) 
(decision with dissent on whether contractual right to arbitrate dispute was waived by litigating the case until trial court expressed misgivings, and then moving to divert case to arbitration).