The Dallas Court of Appeals recently held that a trial court lacks jurisdiction to issue a show-cause order for a non-party to appear if the party is outside the subpoena power of the court. Here, after one unsuccessful mediation, the parties attempted another mediation during trial with the trial court’s blessing. The trial court determined that an insurer for one of the parties had violated its mediation order because the proper representative did not attend the second mediation. After an “impromptu” hearing, the trial court instructed the plaintiff to file a motion to show cause why the insurer should not be held in contempt,  and the plaintiff obliged. The trial court then ordered the “chief claims officer” for the insurer, an Alabama resident, to appear at a contempt hearing. The insurer sought a writ of mandamus.

In an opinion by Justice Stoddart, the court of appeals held that the trial court lacked authority to order a non-party to appear at a hearing where the non-party was not involved in the litigation and is outside the subpoena power of the court, i.e., more than 150 miles from Dallas County. Because the order was void, it was subject to mandamus without considering whether the relator had an adequate remedy by appeal. Accordingly, the court conditionally granted the petition.  The court’s opinion in In re ProAssurance Ins. Co. can be found here.