In Anderson v. Archer, the trial court’s judgment awarded the plaintiffs $2.5 million in damages based on a tortious interference with inheritance claim. No. 03-13-00790-CV, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 2165 (Tex. App.—Austin March 2, 2016, pet. granted). The defendants appealed and argued that Texas law does not recognize such a claim. The court of appeals agreed with the appellants. The court held that prior cases from that court and the Texas Supreme Court had never adopted such a claim:
“In short, we agree with the Amarillo Court of Appeals that ‘neither this Court, the courts in Valdez, Clark, and Russell, nor the trial court below can legitimately recognize, in the first instance, a cause of action for tortiously interfering with one’s inheritance.’ We also agree with the Amarillo court’s assessment that neither the Legislature nor Texas Supreme Court has done so, or at least not yet. Absent legislative or supreme court recognition of the existence of a cause of action, we, as an intermediate appellate court, will not be the first to do so.”
Id. The court also rejected an argument that a tortious interference with inheritance claim is merely a subset of the tort of tortious interference with a contract or prospective contractual or business relationship. It held that it was a separate claim that had not yet been recognized. The court therefore reversed the award for the plaintiff. The plaintiff sought review in the Texas Supreme Court, and today, the Court granted the petition for review. The Court’s staff described the issue as: “The principal issue is whether Texas should recognize tortious interference with inheritance rights.”
The Texas Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in Jackson Walker, LLPO v. Kinsel, No. 15-0403, 2017 Tex. LEXIS 477 (Tex. May 26, 2017), where the court of appeals addressed the issue of whether a tortious interference with inheritance rights claim existed in Texas. The Court held that it would not decide that issue in Kinsel because the plaintiff had other adequate remedies. It appears that the Court will address this important issue in the Anderson case.
This article originally appeared in Texas Fiduciary Litigator