In Hawes v. Peden, a client sued a deceased attorney’s estate and her law firm in district court due to the attorney failing to finish the representation before her death. No. 06-19-00053-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 10841 (Tex. App.—Texarkana December 16, 2019, no pet. history). The law firm filed a plea to the jurisdiction, alleging that the statutory probate court where the attorney’s estate was pending had exclusive jurisdiction over the dispute. The trial court agreed, and the plaintiff appealed the dismissal order.
The court of appeals discussed the statutory probate court’s jurisdiction:
“In a county in which there is a statutory probate court, the statutory probate court has original jurisdiction of probate proceedings.” Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 32.002(c). “In a county in which there is a statutory probate court, the statutory probate court has exclusive jurisdiction of all probate proceedings . . . .” Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 32.005(a). “A cause of action related to the probate proceeding must be brought in a statutory probate court unless the jurisdiction of the statutory probate court is concurrent with the jurisdiction of a district court as provided by Section 32.007 or with the jurisdiction of any other court.” Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 32.005(a). The term “probate proceeding,” as used in the Texas Estates Code, has been defined to include “an application, petition, motion, or action regarding the probate of a will or an estate administration, including a claim for money owed by the decedent.” Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 31.001(4) (Supp.); see Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 22.029 (“probate matter,” “probate proceedings, “proceeding in probate,” and “proceedings for probate” are synonymous and include matters or proceedings related to decedent’s estate). “[A] matter related to a probate proceeding includes . . . an action for trial of the right of property that is estate property.” Tex. Estates Code Ann. § 31.002(a)(6), (c)(1) (defining matters “related to a probate proceeding”).
Id. The court then concluded that the plaintiff sought damages against the estate that would, if awarded, be satisfied from property of the estate. Id. (citing In re Hannah, 431 S.W.3d 801, 809-810 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, orig. proceeding) (because suit sought damages which would be satisfied from defendant’s individual assets rather than from estate property, claims were not related to probate proceeding)). The court affirmed the dismissal and concluded: “Because the petition names Peden’s estate as a defendant and seeks damages directly from the estate, the petition is properly classified as a matter related to the probate proceeding. As such, the trial court was correct to dismiss the lawsuit because the Harris County Probate Court No. 1 had exclusive jurisdiction over this matter.” Id.