COURT OF APPEALS HOLDS TRIAL COURT MAY SET ASIDE DISMISSALS ON ALLEGATION OF FORGERY BY PLAINTIFF

June 11, 2012

The Texarkana Court of Appeals on Friday held that a trial court erred when it determined that it lacked the jurisdiction to set aside dismissals on a plaintiff’s request when he alleged that his signature had been forged on the settlement.  In Henderson v. Southern Farm Bureau Insurance Company, No. 06-12-00014- CV, 2012 WL 2053203 (Tex. App.—Texarkana May 8, 2012), a plaintiff in a lawsuit arising out of a multi-vehicle traffic accident had sued a number of defendants; but, in February 2010, his lawyer filed a joint motion to dismiss the appellee insurance company and the estate of an individual.  The plaintiff alleged that he had not consented to the dismissal, that his signature was forged on the settlement agreement, and that he had not received any settlement funds.  (In support of his allegations, the plaintiff also provided the affidavit of the notary public stating that she did not consent to the use of her seal, and that the signature on the settlement agreement was not hers.)

The  trial  court  denied  the  plaintiff’s  motion  to  set  aside  the  dismissals,  concluding  that  it  lacked jurisdiction to grant the requested relief.  The court of appeals disagreed, holding that because the dismissals did not dispose of all claims or all parties, and because there was no severance of the claims against the dismissed defendants, the dismissal orders were not final judgments.  The court of appeals also held that the decision whether to reinstate the plaintiff’s claims against the dismissed defendants was within the trial court’s discretion, rejecting both sides’ arguments that the other side’s sole remedy was against the plaintiff’s former attorney.