law-statutory-construction, interpretation of statutes

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION PRINCIPLES IN GENERAL

In construing a statute, our primary objective is to ascertain and give effect to the Legislature’s intent as
expressed by the language of the statute.  Galbraith Eng’g Consultants, Inc. v. Pochucha, 290 S.W.3d 863,
867 (Tex. 2009); City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625 (Tex. 2008).  We use definitions prescribed
by the Legislature and any technical or particular meaning the words used in the statute have acquired.  City
of Rockwall, 246 S.W.3d at 625 (citing TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 311.011(b)). Otherwise, we construe the
statute’s words according to their plain and common meaning, unless a contrary intention is apparent from the
context or such a construction leads to absurd results.  Id. at 625–26; see also Pochucha, 290 S.W.3d at 867
(“If the words of a statute are clear and unambiguous, we apply them according to their plain and common
meaning.”).  When a statute’s language is clear and unambiguous, it is inappropriate to resort to rules of
construction or extrinsic aids to construe the language.  City of Rockwall, 246 S.W.3d at 626.

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION CASES FROM HOUSTON  

We review the trial court’s interpretation of applicable statutes de novo.  See Johnson v. City of Fort Worth,
774 S.W.2d 653, 655–56 (Tex. 1989).  In construing a statute, our objective is to determine and give effect to
the legislature’s intent.  See Nat’l Liab. & Fire Ins. Co. v. Allen, 15 S.W.3d 525, 527 (Tex. 2000).  If possible,
we ascertain that intent from the language the legislature used in the statute and we do not look to extraneous
matters for an intent the statute does not state.  Id.  If the meaning of the statutory language is unambiguous,
we adopt the interpretation supported by the plain meaning of the provision’s words.  St. Luke’s Episcopal
Hosp. v. Agbor, 952 S.W.2d 503, 505 (Tex. 1997).  We must not engage in forced or strained construction;
instead, we must yield to the plain sense of the words.  See id.
Allday Dental v. The Dental Solution (Tex.App. - Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 25, 2010)(Frost)
(
contract dispute over placement fees, argument that contract is illegal and thus unenforceable rejected)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Frost      
Before Justices Brock Yates, Frost and Brown    
14-08-00746-CV  Allday Dental & Amar Al-Kutob v. The Dental Solution    
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 4 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Roberta Anne Lloyd   


In construing statutory provisions, our objective is to determine and give effect to the legislature's intent.  Nat'l
Liab. & Fire Ins. Co. v. Allen, 15 S.W.3d 525, 527 (Tex. 2000).  We assume that the legislature tried to say
what it meant; therefore, its words should be the surest guide to its intent.  Segal v Emmes Capital, L.L.C., 155
S.W.3d 267, 286 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. dism'd).  If the meaning of the statutory language is
unambiguous, we will adopt the interpretation supported by the plain meaning of the provision's words.  St.
Luke's Episcopal Hosp. v. Agbor, 952 S.W.2d 503, 505 (Tex. 1997).  We must not engage in forced or
strained construction; instead we yield to the plain sense of the words the legislature chose.  See id.
Mattox v. County Commissioner's Court-Grimes Cty. (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Oct. 29, 2009)(Hedges)
(
mandamus against public official, commissioner's court)(cancellation of road dedication, subdivision)

When possible, we will not interpret one portion of a statute in a manner that renders other parts of it
meaningless.  See Entergy Gulf States, Inc. v. Summers, 282 S.W.3d 433, 442 (Tex. 2009); Saade v.
Villarreal, 280 S.W.3d 511, 522 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, pet. filed).
Robertson v. Barnes (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] July 30, 2009)(Sullivan)
(home owner,
consumer law, DTPA, home in poor condition, stucco problem, seller was not required to
disclose prior water damage because repair was not "structural" which the court construes as referring to load-
bearing)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Sullivan  
Before Justices Brock Yates, Guzman and Sullivan  
14-07-00791-CV  Chris Robertson v. Joe Barnes and Sandion, Ltd d/b/a Coldwell Banker United, Realtors   
Appeal from 280th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: TONY LINDSAY

Our objective when construing a statute is to determine and give effect to the legislature's intent.  Fitzgerald v.
Advanced Spine Fixation Sys., 996 S.W.2d 864, 865 (Tex. 1999); Guthery, 112 S.W.3d at 721.  To ascertain
that intent, we look first to the plain language of the statute.  Phillips v. Beaber, 995 S.W.2d 655, 658 (Tex.
1999); Guthery, 112 S.W.3d at 721.  We presume the legislature acted with complete knowledge of and with
reference to existing law.  See Phillips, 995 S.W.2d at 658; Beatty v. Holmes, 233 S.W.3d 475, 488 (Tex. App.-
Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, pet. granted).  If a statute creates a liability unknown at common law, we must
strictly construe the statute and will not apply it to cases not clearly within its purview.  
N.P. v. Methodist Hosp.,
190 S.W.3d 217, 233 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet. denied). Hadley v. Wyeth Laboratories, Inc.
(Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] May 28, 2009)(Yates) (doctor not a seller for indemnity purposes against
manufacturer of medicine)


Statutory construction is a question of law that the appellate court reviews de novo. In re Forlenza, 140 S.W.
3d 373, 376 (Tex. 2004). "Th[e] enacted language [of a statute] is what constitutes the law, and when a
statute's words are unambiguous and yield a single inescapable interpretation, the judge's inquiry is at an
end." Alex Sheshunoff Mgmt. Servs., L.P. v. Johnson, 209 S.W.3d 644, 651-52 (Tex. 2006). The primary
objective in construing any statute is to determine and give effect to the Legislature's intent. Warner v. Glass,
135 S.W.3d 681, 683 (Tex. 2004). We begin with the plain and common meaning of the statute's words. Id.;
Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.011(a) (Vernon 2005). "If the meaning of the statutory language is unambiguous,
we adopt . . . the interpretation supported by the plain meaning of the provision's words and terms." Fitzgerald
v. Advanced Spine Fixation Sys., Inc., 996 S.W.2d 864, 865 (Tex. 1999).
Briggs Equipment Trust v. HCAD
(Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Jun. 4, 2009)(Radack)
(
property tax litigation, valuation of equipment for property tax purposes, subsequent sales)

When interpreting the meaning of a rule, a court will follow the rule's plain language.  See Bragg v. Edwards
Aquifer Auth., 71 S.W.3d 729, 734 (Tex. 2002).

Our ultimate goal in construing a statute is to give effect to the legislature's intent as expressed in the
language of the statute.  F.F.P. Operating Partners, L.P. v. Duenez, 237 S.W.3d 680, 683 (Tex. 2007);
Horizon/CMS Healthcare Corp. v. Auld, 34 S.W.3d 887, 892 (Tex. 2000).  In doing so, we must always
consider the statute as a whole rather than its isolated provisions.  Helena Chem. Co. v. Wilkins, 47 S.W.3d
486, 493 (Tex. 2001).  “We should not give one provision a meaning out of harmony or inconsistent with other
provisions, although it might be susceptible to such a construction standing alone."  Id.  Instead, we presume
that both the statute and the legislative act are intended to be effective in their entirety.  Allegheny Mut. Cas.
v. State, 710 S.W.2d 139, 141 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1986, pet. ref'd).  Thus, in construing a statute
- regardless of whether it is ambiguous on its face - we may consider, among other matters, the following:  the
object sought to be attained; the circumstances under which the statute was enacted; common law or former
statutory provisions, including laws on the same or similar subjects; and the consequences of a particular
construction.  See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. ' 311.023 (Vernon 2005).[8]
Tara Partners, Ltd. v. City of South Houston (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Jan. 13, 2009)(Seymore)
(
city governmental immunity)
AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED & REMANDED IN PART: Opinion by
Justice Seymore  
Before Justices Frost, Seymore and Guzman
14-07-00330-CV  Tara Partners, Ltd., Granada Terrace, Ltd., David R. Wise, 1606 Savannah LLC, Windsor
Gardens Ltd., and Freeport Villa Brazos Apartments, Ltd. v. City of South Houston
Appeal from 157th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: Randy Wilson
Concurring Opinion by Justice Frost


Statutory interpretation is a legal matter subject to de novo review.  Bragg v. Edwards Aquifer Auth., 71 S.W.
3d 729, 734 (Tex. 2002).  The overriding goal of statutory interpretation is to determine the legislature's
intent.  Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Downs, 81 S.W.3d 803, 805 (Tex. 2002).  To glean legislative intent, we look first to
the plain and common meaning of the words used by the legislature.  Argonaut Ins. Co. v. Baker, 87 S.W.3d
526, 529 (Tex. 2002); see also Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.011(a) (Vernon 2005).  We begin with the plain
language because we assume that the legislature tried to say what it meant; therefore, its words should be the
surest guide to its intent.  See Fitzgerald v. Advanced Spine Fixation Sys., Inc., 996 S.W.2d 864, 866 (Tex.
1999); Segal v. Emmes Capital, L.L.C., 155 S.W.3d 267, 286 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet.
dism'd).  It is a well-settled rule of statutory construction that every word of a statute must be presumed to
have been used for a purpose.  Quick v. City of Austin, 7 S.W.3d 109, 123 (Tex. 1998).  Likewise, every word
excluded from a statute must also be presumed to have been excluded for a purpose.  Id.  This rule
complements another general statutory construction principle that courts should not insert words into a statute
except to give effect to clear legislative intent.  Laidlaw Waste Sys., Inc. v. City of Wilmer, 904 S.W.2d 656,
659 (Tex.1995).
In Interest of SN, SMN, DAN (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Oct 14, 2008)(Yates)
(termination, constitutionality)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Justice Brock Yates  
Before Justices Brock Yates, Anderson and Brown
14-07-00161-CV In the Interest of S.N., S.M.N., D.A.N., Children
Appeal from 314th District Court of Harris County


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