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Bell Nunnally’s John Fugitt Achieves Major Appellate Victory for Family-Owned Quarter Horse Organization

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh District of Texas on February 24 upheld a sanctions award ordering that opposing counsel and his firm pay $60,000 in attorney’s fees and costs to Pamela J. Bilek and her related entities (“Bilek”) as a sanction for filing a lawsuit in bad faith and for purposes of harassment.  For nearly two years, Bilek, represented by Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP Partner John R.W. Fugitt, were engaged in defense of litigation brought by a judge for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

In April 2010, the judge (“plaintiff”) filed a lawsuit in the 40th District Court of Ellis County Texas alleging that Bilek had committed various acts of libel, defamation and slander based on the contents of a letter of complaint regarding the judge that was sent to the AQHA.  In response, Bilek filed a special appearance, contending the State of Texas lacked personal jurisdiction over her. Shortly thereafter, the case was dismissed by the court without prejudice based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

The plaintiff then filed three identical and additional suits against Bilek in the Texas counties of Medina, Potter and Victoria. Ultimately, the Potter County suit was served. Bilek then filed a special appearance based on lack of personal jurisdiction, as well as a motion for sanctions against plaintiff, his attorney, and his attorney’s firm.

The plaintiff subsequently non-suited the Potter County case. However, on the motion for sanctions, the 108th District Court for Potter County, Texas found that the lawsuit was filed in bad faith and ordered the plaintiff, his attorney, and his attorney’s firm to pay $50,000 to Bilek for attorney’s fees and expenses and an additional $10,000 in sanctions.

The attorney and firm appealed the sanctions ruling, and on appeal, the Seventh Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the 108th District Court’s Ruling.

The case is Corea v. Bilek, 2012 WL 602898, No. 07-11-00114-CV (Tex. App.—Amarillo, Feb. 24, 2012).


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