The Supreme Court in Texas issued an opinion on April 5, 2019 that effectively changes the statute of limitations analysis on civil conspiracy claims in Texas. See Agar Corporation, Inc. v. Electro Circuits International LLC, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 351 (April 5, 2019). The Supreme Court of Texas also clarified its position on whether a civil conspiracy claim is an independent tort or a theory of vicarious liability and held that it was theory of vicarious liability and a derivative claim that depends on some underlying tort or illegal act. Because a civil conspiracy requires an underlying tort, most civil conspiracy claims should accrue when the underlying tort claim causes harm to the plaintiff, that is, the same time as the tort claim against the primary wrongdoer. Further, limitations run separately for each such tortious act.
Agar was a summary judgment appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment on various tort claims based on the general two-year statute of limitations generally applicable to torts at section 16.003 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Included in the grant of summary judgment were various civil conspiracy claims. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision and the issue before the Supreme Court of Texas was what statute of limitations applies to a claim of civil conspiracy. Texas. See Agar Corporation, Inc. v. Electro Circuits International LLC, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 351, *1.
The Supreme Court of Texas held that it did not agree that section 16.003 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code universally applies to claims of civil conspiracy. Because civil conspiracy is a derivative tort that “depends on participation in some underlying tort,” the Supreme Court held that the applicable statute of limitations on a civil conspiracy claim must coincide with that of the underlying tort for which the plaintiff seeks to hold at least one of the named defendants liable.” See Agar Corporation, Inc. v. Electro Circuits International LLC, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 351, *1-2, citing, Tilton v. Marshall, 925 S.W.2d 672, 681 (Tex. 1996). Because one of the claims in Agar may not be barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the decision of the court of appeals was reversed in part and affirmed in part.
The Agar opinion has a lot of meat on it and if you are considering adding a civil conspiracy claim to your pleadings, it is a must read as it also sets out the elements of civil conspiracy and discusses what other jurisdictions have decided and why the court reached the opinion it did. The Supreme Court also goes through an analysis and finds that while civil conspiracy is a cause of action, it is not an independent tort.See Agar Corporation, Inc. v. Electro Circuits International LLC, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 351, *9. The court finally goes to great pains to point out that damages come from the underlying wrongful act, not the conspiracy itself. See Agar Corporation, Inc. v. Electro Circuits International LLC, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 351, *9, citing, Tilton v. Marshall, 925 S.W.2d 672, 680-681 (Tex. 1996).The opinions in this blog are solely the author’s and any comments, suggestions, or replies can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.