Pending before the Texas Supreme Court is this very question: Does Texas law recognize a claim for tortious interference with inheritance rights? At this time, there is a split between Texas appellate courts. Courts in San Antonio, Houston, and El Paso have recognized a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance rights. Austin has held that the cause of action does not exist and therefore cannot be enforced. The Fort Worth Court of Appeals, however, has not made an affirmative finding.
In the case of the Kinsels, this was unfortunate news. The Kinsels filed suit against Lindsey, Oliver, Banyon, and Jackson Walker, LLP for tortious interference with prospective inheritance rights among other causes of action. The jury (in Tarrant County) found in favor of the Kinsels, holding the Defendants liable for over $4 million in damages.
The Defendants appealed the jury verdict, before the Amarillo Court of Appeals, arguing that neither the Texas Supreme Court nor the Fort Worth Court of Appeals had recognized the cause of action. The Seventh District agreed, stating it was not appropriate for an intermediate appellate court to create law via a transfer case, and reversed the jury’s verdict. The court opined that it was up to the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Legislature to expand the law if they so choose.
The outcome of the Texas Supreme Court’s review, if granted, could have a major impact on damages rewarded to those disputing inheritance rights. Those who feel they have been robbed of their inheritance may have a new course of action.
If you have any questions on trust or fiduciary responsibilities, feel free to contact Yale Law Group at 940-222-8025.