Joining most other courts across the state, the Dallas Court of Appeals has now held that a plaintiff may wait until after final judgment to appeal from the grant of a special appearance. Under Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 51.014(a)(7), a party “may” pursue an interlocutory appeal when a trial court grants a special appearance. But, the Dallas Court explained, such an interlocutory appeal is permissive, and a party’s decision not to pursue it does not waive that party’s right to appeal the ruling after final judgment.

Southampton Ltd. v. Four Horsemen Auto Group, Inc.

Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05‐14‐01415‐CV (July 20, 2016)

Justices Bridges (Opinion), Francis, and Myers

Southampton and Southwest made a loan to Michael J. Terry in connection with some Oklahoma auto dealerships bearing his name. The dealerships were owned and operated by Four Horsemen and three Chisholm Trail entities, of which Terry was a “managing member.” Terry signed the promissory note individually but also signed guaranty and other agreements on behalf of Four Horsemen and the Chisholm Trail entities. The loan documents contained a forum-selection clause providing for exclusive jurisdiction in the courts of Dallas County, Texas. When Terry, Four Horsemen, and the Chisholm Trail entities failed to pay, Southampton and Southwest brought suit in Dallas. Four Horsemen and the Chisholm Trail entities filed special appearances, arguing their own lack of contacts with Texas and Terry’s lack of authority to bind them to the forum-selection clause. The trial court granted the special appearances, and the case proceeded to trial against Terry individually, resulting in a $400,000 judgment for plaintiffs. Southampton and Southwest then appealed the grant of the other defendants’ special appearances.

The Dallas Court of Appeals first confirmed the plaintiffs’ right to wait until final judgment to pursue their appeal. Then it reversed the grant of the special appearances, finding Terry had apparent authority to act for Four Horsemen and the Chisholm Trail entities, and therefore that the forum-selection clause bound those entities and subjected them to personal jurisdiction in Texas.