SW Legal studies in Business

Defendant’s Income Information Not Relevant if No Punitive Damages at Stake
Description

Appeals court held that a restaurant, being sued for serving too much alcohol to a driver who was involved in an accident, need not reveal information about its income. Since a criminal act by the drunk driver was the primary cause of the injury, the restaurant may be sued for compensatory damages only.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Evidence; Discovery; Net Worth; Mandamus Relief

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Candy Greenwood sued Islamorada Fish Co., alleging that it served excessive amounts of alcohol to Kris Ayres who, when intoxicated, drove into Greenwood’s car. Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, Greenwood sought compensatory and punitive damages against Islamorada. Greenwood requested information about Islamorada’s net worth. Islamorada objected, contending it could not be liable for punitive damages, so should not have to produce the income information. The trial court ordered it to provide the information. It appealed that court order.

Decision

Writ of mandamus granted. Mandamus relief is appropriate when the trial court abuses its discretion, and the party has no adequate appellate remedy. A trial court abused its discretion by ordering discovery that exceeds the scope permitted by the rules of procedure. The net worth of the restaurant is not discoverable because punitive damages may not be awarded in this case. Otherwise it would be. Ayers was legally intoxicated and pleaded guilty to intoxication assault. The injury suffered by Greenwood arises from a criminal act. Because of that, Greenwood is limited to suing Islamorada for compensatory damages only. Because the trial court abused its discretion, the writ of mandamus vacates the court order to provide the net worth information.

Citation

In re Islamorada Fish Co., ---S.W.3d--- (2010 WL 2560556, Ct. App., Tx., 2010)

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