In Aquaplex, Inc. v. Rancho La Valencia, Inc., the Texas Supreme Court appears to have equated intent with causation in a fraud case. Aquaplex sued Rancho for fraud. Aquaplex asserted that it lost the sale of a piece of real property due to Rancho having filed a lis pendens on the property. On appeal following an adverse verdict, Rancho argued that there was no evidence as to why Aquaplex lost the sale of the property and therefore there was no evidence of causation between the alleged fraud and Aquaplex’s damages. In its per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court holds that there was legally sufficient evidence because both parties knew of the offer for the property and Rancho testified it filed the lis pendens to prevent the sale.
It is unclear how this holding fits with prior precedent holding that evil motive or intent does not necessarily establish a cause of action. This opinion should give concern to those who file lis pendens. The purpose of lis pendens is give initial notice of a claim to property. According to the Aquaplex decision, the filing of a lis pendens might well constitute a complete claim for fraud.
For appellate practitioners, there’s another holding in Aquaplex that may be of interest. The court holds that a Respondent need not raise an alternative ground for affirmance as a cross-point in response to the Petition for Review. Rather, to request that the Supreme Court consider alternative grounds for affirmance raised in the court of appeals but not decided by that court, the respondent may raise those issues in the petition, the response to the petition, the reply, any brief, or a motion for rehearing. Here, Rancho preserved a cross-point by raising it in its brief on the merits for the first time.
The court’s opinion may be found here.