GALVESTON — An appeals court awarded a stevedoring company $635,928 after overturning a judgment by a Galveston County court judge.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas ruled Christopher Dupuy, judge of Galveston County Court at Law No. 3, erred in applying the economic loss rule.
The justices, in their ruling published Dec. 6, also found Dupuy erred in applying the settlement credit to the award of exemplary damages.
Dupuy was elected judge during a 2010 Republican landslide. He has come under scrutiny related to incidents both before and after he became judge.
Dupuy’s judgment overturned by the appeals court involved a lawsuit brought Jan. 23, 2009, by James J. Flanagan Shipping Corp. against Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A.
When asked if he would comment on the reversal, Dupuy declined, saying in an email to The Daily News that the matter was still ripe for further appellate action, and that it was not appropriate to demand that the trial judge comment on the appellate court order that upheld the court’s factual findings and its damage award amount. Dupuy also said it would be more appropriate to seek comment from the parties involved.
Flanagan sued Del Monte and other defendants for breach of fiduciary duty, knowingly participating in a breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, conversion, unjust enrichment, unfair competition and accessing proprietary and confidential business information, according to the appeals court opinion.
After settling with other defendants, Flanagan went to a bench trial against Del Monte. The trial court found Flanagan’s claims were well founded and its findings were favorable to Flanagan. After concluding that the economic loss rule and a settlement credit applied to bar Flanagan’s recovery, the trial court ordered a take-nothing judgment on all of Flanagan’s claims against Del Monte, the opinion states.
On appeal, Flanagan contended the trial court erred by applying the economic loss rule and by finding that its award of exemplary damages should be reduced based on a settlement credit.
“We reverse and render judgment of the trial court and render judgment for Flanagan in the amount of $635,928,” the opinion states.
In a separate reversal from October, The Fourteenth Court of Appeals found Dupuy abused his discretion by sanctioning an attorney and dismissing a credit card debt-collection case. The appeals court reversed Dupuy’s $500 fine against an attorney representing Citibank and also reversed Dupuy’s dismissal of the banking institution’s debt-collection case.
Dupuy has garnered attention for other incidents. When he filed for election he was under a six-month probated suspension from the state bar, which found he committed professional misconduct.
Dupuy was also named in a $500,000 fraud and malpractice lawsuit that accused him of engaging in conduct on numerous occasions that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages against his own clients.
In relation to that lawsuit, a judge ordered a $7,500 sanction against Dupuy and accused him of filing recusal motions solely for the purpose of delay and without sufficient evidence.
Shortly after Dupuy was sanctioned, he filed for bankruptcy protection in February, his second such filing since 2004. Dupuy listed $299,772 as the amount in which creditors hold unsecured, nonpriority claims, court documents state. The creditors included fees from attorneys, credit card companies, four civil suits, two foreclosures, two repossessions and two student loans.
Earlier this month, a federal court judge dismissed Dupuy’s bankruptcy case at his request.