law-unclean-hands-doctrine


Unclean Hands

In his third issue, Ryals argues that Ogden is not entitled to equitable relief under the “unclean hands"
doctrine because she admitted to using rental income from the property to pay attorney's fees.

This
doctrine requires a person who comes into a court of equity to enter with clean
hands
.  Grohn v. Marquardt, 657 S.W.2d 851, 855 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.).  The
equitable maxim is confined to misconduct in regard to, or at all events connected with, the matter in
litigation, so that it has in some measure affected the equitable relations subsisting between the two
parties, and arising out of the transaction.  Lazy M Ranch, Ltd. v. TXI Operations, LP, 978 S.W.2d 678,
683 (Tex. App.-Austin 1998, pet. denied).  It does not extend to any misconduct, however gross,
unconnected with the matter in litigation, and with which the opposite party has no concern.  See Axelson
v. McIlhany, 798 S.W.2d 550, 556 (Tex. 1990).  The unclean hands doctrine should not be applied when
the defendant has not been seriously harmed and the wrong complained of can be corrected.  Paciwest,
Inc. v. Warner Alan Properties, LLC, 266 S.W.3d 559, 571 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2008, pet. denied).  It is
within the trial court's discretion to determine whether a party has unclean hands and whether the party's
alleged fraudulent actions should bar equitable relief.  Grohn, 657 S.W.2d at 855.
Ryals v. Ogden  (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 25, 2009) (Boyce)
(
temporary injunction appeal, multiple proceedings in different courts, unclean hands doctrine inapplicable,
res judicata does not apply, other court did not have jurisdiction, collateral attack on prior judgment).  
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Justice Boyce    
Before Justices Anderson, Frost and Boyce  
14-07-01008-CV        Kenneth Ryals, Managing Trustee of East Texas Investment Trust v. Lisa Ogden,
Steven Gayle and Wayne Westbrook   
Appeal from 55th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Judge (now Justice) Jeffrey V. Brown
Because the district court made no findings of fact or conclusions of law addressing whether Ogden had
unclean hands, the issue before us is whether Ryals's assertion that the temporary injunction should have
been denied because Ogden had unclean hands is supported by the record.  See Davis v. Huey, 571 S.W.
2d 859, 861-62 (Tex. 1978).  The county court judgment recited that Ryals as the managing trustee of the
Trust was entitled to recover past due rent from Maxie Westbrook, Guinn, and any of their tenants
including Ogden.  The county court appointed a receiver to facilitate the turnover of rental income to
Ryals.  At the district court hearing on the temporary injunction, Ogden admitted that she had used a
portion of the rental income from the property to pay her attorney's fees.  Ryals argues that because
Ogden has failed to follow the county court's turnover order, she is not entitled to equitable relief in the
district court.

Even if this court were to conclude that Ogden's conduct in diverting the Trust's rent payments from the
receiver and failing to comply with the county court's turnover order were sufficient to invoke application of
the unclean hands doctrine, that conclusion would not provide any basis to reverse the trial court because
Ogden was only one of three plaintiffs granted relief.  A finding that Ogden had unclean hands would not
bar injunctive relief for the other two plaintiffs C Steven Gayle and Wayne Westbrook, neither of whom
were alleged to have come to court with unclean hands.  Therefore, even if this court were to find merit in
Ryals's “unclean hands" argument as to Ogden, Ryals still could not prevail on appeal because he has not
even attempted to demonstrate that the injunctive relief is not sustainable as to the other two plaintiffs.  
Under these circumstances, we cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the
temporary injunction.  We overrule Ryals's third issue.



Design Electric v. Cadence McShane Corp. (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Oct. 30, 2007)(Seymore)
(
construction contract, clean unclean hands)
AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED & REMANDED IN PART: Opinion by Justice Seymore
Before Justices Brock Yates, Edelman and Seymore
14-06-00703-CV Design Electric v. Cadence McShane Corporation
Appeal from 281st District Court of Harris County (
Hon. David Jorge Bernal)


CLAIMS AND DEFENSES IN TEXAS COURTS | INDEX TO HOUSTON CASE LAW PAGES |
TEXAS COURT OF APPEALS OPINIONS  
HOUSTON OPINIONS HOME PAGE