Legal Memorandum: Doctrine of "Law of the Case" in TX

Issue: Under Texas law, does the doctrine of ‘law of the case’ preclude the assertion of related legal theories on remand?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: "Law of the case" doctrine; Related legal theories
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 267 S.W.2d 866; 981 S.W.2d 388; 993 S.W.2d 311; 930 S.W.2d 659; 984 S.W.2d 709; 919 S.W.2d 698; 834 S.W.2d 395; 769 S.W.2d 261; 526 S.W.2d 283; 659 S.W.2d 670; 858 S.W.2d 33; 854 S.W.2d 278; 156 Tex. 329; 564 S.W.2d 682; 294 S.W.2d 795; 611 S.W.2d 917; 711 S.W.2d 628
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2000

The leading case on point is Hudson v. Wakefield, 711 S.W.2d 628 (Tex. 1986).  Hudson arose in connection with a contract for the sale of land in which the bank refused to honor the purchasers’ earnest money check.  The sellers claimed there was no contract because the earnest money check was denied based on insufficient funds.  When the purchasers brought an action for specific performance, the trial court granted summary judgment for the sellers, and the appeals court affirmed.  Id. at 629.  The supreme court reversed and remanded for determination of whether the return of the earnest money check was a material breach warranting the sellers’ repudiation of the contract.  On remand, the sellers’ asserted fraud in the inducement, and the purchasers asserted a ratification theory.  The court rendered judgment for the sellers, notwithstanding the verdict.  The court of appeals affirmed.

The question before the supreme court was whether under the “law of the case” doctrine the parties were precluded from asserting additional related legal theories and defenses, where the supreme court had specified a limited factual inquiry on remand.  The court declared that its original holding was that a fact question existed and summary judgment was not proper.  The court went on to hold that the law-of-the-case doctrine did not preclude the introduction of additional legal theories at a subsequent trial on the merits.

The Hudson court described the “law of the case” as legal issues decided on appeal which continue to govern […]

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