While I was off marathoning last week, the Dallas Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case for which I am lead appellate counsel. For the few legal nerds out there, I filed a motion with the Court of Appeals asking it to find that the trial court had abused its discretion in determining the net worth of two judgment debtors (my clients) for purposes of setting the bond required to supersede the judgment while the case is on appeal.
Wow, when you write it like that, it sounds really exciting.
Here's the deal. When a defendant gets hit with a judgment and wants to appeal, the defendant can post a bond that prohibits the plaintiff from executing on the judgment. Imagine, if you will, that a jury awards the plaintiff $1 million. The defendant wants to appeal and doesn't want to pay the plaintiff the $1 million unless and until the appeal is final. So the defendant has to put up a bond so the plaintiff has security that, assuming the appeal is unsuccessful, the plaintiff will eventually be able to recover. Typically, the bond is for the amount of the judgment. So for a defendant to supersede a $1 million judgment, the defendant would have to find a surety to back him for a $1 million bond. But there's also a rule in Texas that the bond cannot be greater than 50% of the judgment debtor's (i.e., defendant's) net worth.
In my case, I was arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the two defendants each had a net worth of $20,000 (which resulted in the trial court setting the bond for each defendant at $10,000). Instead, we put forth evidence that the net worth of the one of the defendants was a negative number and the net worth of the other defendant was around $2,600.
Since July, we've had two hearing in the trial court on this, filed two motions in the appellate court, and provided some additional letter briefing at the request of the Court of Appeals. While I liked our chances, showing an abuse of discretion by the trial court is pretty hard.
But we won! The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and rendered that the defendants' net worth was exactly what we said it was (negative for one defendant and around $2,600 for the other defendant).
If you're so inclined, a copy of the Court's opinion is here.