Smith's Opinions

While serving on the Texas Supreme Court, Steve Smith authored sixteen published opinions. Below is a link to, legal citation for, and brief description of Smith's ten most important opinions.

1. In Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services v. Mega Child Care, 145 S.W.3d 170 (Tex. 2004), the Court held that the Texas Administrative Procedure Act provides an independent right to judicial review of contested-case decisions. Smith's 48-page majority opinion, which overturned 25 years of flawed lower court precedent, was characterized as "landmark" by Baylor Law School Professor Beal, author of Texas Administrative Practice and Procedure.

2. In Little v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 148 S.W.3d 374 (Tex. 2004), the Court overturned two lower court decisions dismissing the plaintiff's employment discrimination suit. The district court and the court of appeals had both held as a matter of law that the plaintiff, whose left leg had been amputated at the knee, was not "disabled" for purposes of the Texas version of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Smith's majority opinion, which remanded the case to the court of appeals for further proceedings, was delivered five weeks after the Court heard oral arguments.

3. In Kerr-McGee Corporation v. Helton, 133 S.W.3d 245 (Tex. 2004), the Court held that the conclusion of the plaintiffs' expert witness as to what a hypothetical protection gas well would have produced was unreliable and, therefore, constituted no evidence to support the plaintiffs' alleged damages. Smith's majority opinion, which rendered judgment for the defendants, was noteworthy for applying the Court's modern expert witness precedent for the first time in the oil and gas context.

4. In 1464-Eight, Ltd. v. Joppich, 154 S.W.3d 101 (Tex. 2004), the Court held, as a matter of first impression, that the developer's failure to pay the nominal consideration of ten dollars recited in the option contract did not preclude its enforcement. Smith's majority opinion, which reviewed in detail the applicable caselaw and legal commentary regarding this issue, incorporated section 87(1)(a) of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts into the Texas common law.

5. In West Orange-Cove v. Alanis, 107 S.W.3d 558 (Tex. 2003), the Court, Justice Hecht writing for the majority, decided another school finance challenge. Smith's 36-page dissent, 107 S.W.3d at 586, questioned the plaintiffs' standing to pursue the lawsuit and, following a lengthy analysis of the applicable caselaw and constitutional history, asserted that the "Robin Hood" school funding scheme constitutes an unconstitutional statewide property tax. Significant portions of Smith's dissent were incorporated into the state's briefing when the case returned to the Court in 2005.

6. In FFE Transportation Services v. Fulgham, 154 S.W.3d 84 (Tex. 2004), the Court resolved several issues. The plaintiff driver had brought both strict liability and negligence actions against a trucking corporation for injuries sustained when the trailer leased to him by the corporation failed. Smith's majority opinion, which remanded the case to the court of appeals, held inter alia that strict products liability is inapplicable when a company gratuitously provides a product to an independent contractor working for the company for the sole purpose of accomplishing the company's business purposes.

7. In In re Kuntz, 124 S.W.3d 179 (Tex. 2003), the Court held, as a matter of first impression, that the defendant's mere access to letters of recommendation at his workplace did not constitute "physical possession" of the letters within the meaning of the Texas rule of civil procedure allowing a party to obtain discovery of documents within a person's physical possession. Smith's majority opinion resolving this discovery mandamus granted the defendant's requested relief.

8. In In re Entergy Corporation, 142 S.W.3d 316 (Tex. 2004), the Court held that the Public Utility Commission had exclusive jurisdiction over the parties' dispute. Ratepayers had sued the electric utility in state district court to recover for the alleged breach of a merger agreement that had been incorporated into a 1992 PUC order. Smith's majority opinion resolving this mandamus granted the defendants' requested relief.

9. In Fort Worth Osteopathic Hospital v. Reese, 148 S.W.3d 94 (Tex. 2004), the Court, Chief Justice Phillips writing for the majority, held that the Texas wrongful death and survival statutes do not violate the Equal Protection Clause by prohibiting parents of a stillborn fetus from bringing claims under them. Smith's dissent, 148 S.W.3d at 101, asserted that the Court should recognize the Legislature's intent to create a cause of action under both the wrongful death and survival statutes for medical negligence that causes the prenatal death of a viable fetus.

10. In Sixth RMA Partners, L.P. v. Sibley, 111 S.W.3d 46 (Tex. 2003), the Court resolved several procedural issues. The promissory note maker had brought a declaratory judgment action against a limited partnership related to, but legally separate from, the promissory note holder. Before being served, the limited partnership brought a collection action against the maker. Smith's majority opinion, which remanded the case to the court of appeals, held inter alia that the holder's use of a second supplemental pleading to substitute its name for the name of the limited partnership was incorrect under the applicable Texas rule of civil procedure, but nonetheless sufficient to substitute the holder's correct name.