In Marshall v. Marshall, a beneficiary sued the original trustee and five co-trustees of two trusts regarding claims that they breached fiduciary duties. No. 14-17-00930-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 1949 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] March 16, 2021, no pet. history). After the original lawsuit was filed in Texas, the original trustee filed a petition for declaratory relief in a Louisiana court, requesting the court declare, among other things, that the co-trustees were properly appointed as co-trustees of the trust. The beneficiary obtained a temporary injunction preventing the co-trustees from receiving compensation, disposing of trust assets, and participating in litigation against the beneficiary in Louisiana. The co-trustees appealed.

The court of appeals first reversed the anti-suit injunction aspect of the temporary injunction order because allowing the suit to continue would not create a miscarriage of justice:

The principle of comity requires that courts exercise the power to enjoin foreign suits “sparingly, and only in very special circumstances.” Golden Rule Ins. Co. v. Harper, 925 S.W.2d 649, 651 (Tex. 1996) (quoting Christensen v. Integrity Ins. Co., 719 S.W.2d 161, 163 (Tex. 1986)). An anti-suit injunction may be appropriate to (1) address a threat to the court’s jurisdiction, (2) prevent the evasion of important public policy, (3) prevent a multiplicity of suits, or (4) protect a party from vexatious or harassing litigation. Id. The party seeking the injunction must show that a clear equity demands the injunction. Id. A single parallel proceeding in a foreign forum does not constitute a multiplicity of suits, nor does it by itself create a clear equity justifying an anti-suit injunction. Id.

Here, however, there is no special circumstance or clear equity to prevent a Louisiana court from determining issues related to inter vivos trusts that are governed by Louisiana law and that require the trustee to petition a Louisiana court for instructions regarding any questions that might arise regarding their administrations. Any suit in Louisiana by the co-trustees to determine the effect of the Wyoming court’s rulings would apply only to the Harrier and Falcon trusts. This single parallel proceeding brought by some of the co-trustees in Louisiana, consistent with the trusts’ requirements that the co-trustees file suit in Louisiana, cannot justify issuing an anti-suit injunction. See Golden Rule, 925 S.W.2d at 651-52. Even if there are overlapping or identical issues, the Louisiana suit does not create a miscarriage of justice. See id. Accordingly, the trial court erred to enjoin the co-trustees from litigating matters related to the Harrier and Falcon trusts in any other court.

Id.

The court also reversed the other aspects of the temporary injunction order as there was no evidence to support an irreparable harm finding:

[T]here was no evidence that the co-trustees had taken any action or planned to take any action to transfer, sell, or dispose of any unique and irreplaceable assets of the trust. Elaine testified that the co-trustees had not made any attempt to gain access to the Ribosome certificates. Under these circumstances, a temporary injunction is not proper because the claimed injury to unique assets is merely speculative; fear of injury is not sufficient. … The trial court also found that Preston had no adequate remedy because there was “no evidence that the Co-Trustees can answer in damages.” This finding reverses the burden of proof. To the extent Preston sought to establish that the co-trustees were insolvent and thus could not satisfy a judgment, it was Preston’s burden to adduce some evidence to support the claim. … Here, the only evidence about what the trustees had done with fees was that they had placed the fees into a court’s registry to await a judicial determination. And as discussed above, there is no evidence that unique assets of the trusts are in imminent danger of being dissipated. Accordingly, the trial court erred by enjoining the co-trustees from receiving compensation and taking any actions that could affect the trusts’ assets.

Id.

Photo of David Fowler Johnson David Fowler Johnson

dfjohnson@winstead.com
817.420.8223

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the Texas Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary…

dfjohnson@winstead.com
817.420.8223

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the Texas Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary field in Texas. Read More

David’s financial institution experience includes (but is not limited to): breach of contract, foreclosure litigation, lender liability, receivership and injunction remedies upon default, non-recourse and other real estate lending, class action, RICO actions, usury, various tort causes of action, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and preference and other related claims raised by receivers.

David also has experience in estate and trust disputes including will contests, mental competency issues, undue influence, trust modification/clarification, breach of fiduciary duty and related claims, and accountings. David’s recent trial experience includes:

  • Representing a bank in federal class action suit where trust beneficiaries challenged whether the bank was the authorized trustee of over 220 trusts;
  • Representing a bank in state court regarding claims that it mismanaged oil and gas assets;
  • Representing a bank who filed suit in probate court to modify three trusts to remove a charitable beneficiary that had substantially changed operations;
  • Represented an individual executor of an estate against claims raised by a beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty and an accounting; and
  • Represented an individual trustee against claims raised by a beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty, mental competence of the settlor, and undue influence.

David is one of twenty attorneys in the state (of the 84,000 licensed) that has the triple Board Certification in Civil Trial Law, Civil Appellate and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Additionally, David is a member of the Civil Trial Law Commission of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. This commission writes and grades the exam for new applicants for civil trial law certification.

David maintains an active appellate practice, which includes:

  • Appeals from final judgments after pre-trial orders such as summary judgments or after jury trials;
  • Interlocutory appeals dealing with temporary injunctions, arbitration, special appearances, sealing the record, and receiverships;
  • Original proceedings such as seeking and defending against mandamus relief; and
  • Seeking emergency relief staying trial court’s orders pending appeal or mandamus.

For example, David was the lead appellate lawyer in the Texas Supreme Court in In re Weekley Homes, LP, 295 S.W.3d 309 (Tex. 2009). The Court issued a ground-breaking opinion in favor of David’s client regarding the standards that a trial court should follow in ordering the production of computers in discovery.

David previously taught Appellate Advocacy at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law located in Fort Worth. David is licensed and has practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court; the Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh Federal Circuits; the Federal District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Texas; the Texas Supreme Court and various Texas intermediate appellate courts. David also served as an adjunct professor at Baylor University Law School, where he taught products liability and portions of health law. He has authored many legal articles and spoken at numerous legal education courses on both trial and appellate issues. His articles have been cited as authority by the Texas Supreme Court (twice) and the Texas Courts of Appeals located in Waco, Texarkana, Beaumont, Tyler and Houston (Fourteenth District), and a federal district court in Pennsylvania. David’s articles also have been cited by McDonald and Carlson in their Texas Civil Practice treatise, William v. Dorsaneo in the Texas Litigation Guide, and various authors in the Baylor Law ReviewSt. Mary’s Law JournalSouth Texas Law Review and Tennessee Law Review.

Representative Experience

  • Civil Litigation and Appellate Law