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Under Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(i), a party is entitled to summary judgment if, after adequate time for discovery, there is no evidence of one or more essential elements of a claim or defense on which an adverse party would have the burden of proof at trial. Thus, a no-evidence summary judgment is similar to a directed verdict. The motion for summary judgment may not be general, but must state the elements on which there is no evidence. Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(i). The trial court must grant the motion unless the nonmovant produces more than a scintilla of evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact on each of the challenged elements.
The father's child was abducted by her mother in violation of a custody order. The reporter interviewed the mother, with the child present, having agreed not to divulge the child's whereabouts. After the story was televised, the father sued appellants – a television station, its reporter, and two individuals -- for violating the Texas Family Code and Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 7.02, negligence, gross negligence, negligence per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. The trial court denied appellants' motion for summary judgment, and they appealed.
Under the circumstances, did the trial court err in denying appellants’ motion for summary judgment?
The appellate court held that summary judgment was required. As the Penal Code did not provide for a private cause of action, the claim alleging a violation of Tex. Penal Code Ann. §7.02(a) (Vernon 1994) was dismissed. Since the reporter did not assist the mother in abducting or concealing the child and had no duty under the Family Code to reveal the child's whereabouts, the claim base on his alleged Family Code violation was dismissed. The negligence claims were dismissed, as appellants did not create the situation at issue, and had no special relationship with the father or child. The negligence per se claim was based on the dismissed Family Code claim and was also dismissed. As a matter of law, appellants' conduct was not extreme or outrageous. Finally, the father had no evidence to support the civil conspiracy claim.