Rusty Hardin & Associates appellate lawyers won an important victory at the Supreme Court of Texas with a favorable ruling for client Terra Energy Partners LLC in a long-running trade secret misappropriation case. The appellate victory was made possible by an unrelated precedent-setting case in May 2021 that was also handled by the team.
The state’s highest court determined that the First Court of Appeals in Houston should reconsider its earlier denial of a motion to dismiss sought by Terra based on its recent opinion in Armando Montelongo Jr. et al. v. Cecil G. Abrea et al., which found that a 60-day deadline to file for dismissal under the Texas Citizens Participation Act – the state’s anti-SLAPP free speech statute – can be reset under specific conditions. The Montelongo case was also handled by Rusty Hardin & Associates appellate lawyer Lara Hollingsworth and the firm’s appellate team.
“We anticipated this result in light of the court’s recent rulings,” Ms. Hollingsworth told Law360.
Terra and employees Benjamin “B.J.” Reynolds, Mark Mewshew and Wes Hobbs argued on appeal that their motion to dismiss was wrongly denied as untimely even though it was filed within the 60-day window after Sanchez filed its amended state court petition. The First Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision in December 2020, about four months before the high court issued its ruling in Montelongo’s case.
The dispute stems from claims filed in March 2016 by Sanchez Oil & Gas Corp. that Terra Energy Partners and the three former employees misappropriated trade secrets related to its oil and gas drilling technology. The defendants filed the motion to dismiss after Sanchez amended the complaint more than two years later to include more specific allegations. After the trial court rejected the motion to dismiss, the First Court of Appeals stated that it was bound by precedent to conclude that the trial court had not erred. The appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas was filed in January 2021, just a week before oral arguments in the Montelongo case.
In addition to Ms. Hollingsworth, Terra is represented by Rusty Hardin and Ryan Higgins of Rusty Hardin & Associates LLP; Wallace B. Jefferson and Nicholas Bacarisse of Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP; and Allissa A.R. Pollard of DLA Piper LLP.
The case is Reynolds et al. v. Sanchez Oil & Gas Corp. et al., case number 21-0106, in the Supreme Court of Texas.