Jackson Walker, LLP v. Kinsel, 518 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2015), aff'd sub nom, Kinsel v. Lindsey, 526 S.W.3d 411 (Tex. 2017).


Tortious Interference With Inheritance Rights


A jury found that Defendants were liable for tortiously interfering with their inheritance rights.  The trial court then awarded damages as well as other remedies in an attempt to undo the interference.  Defendants appealed not on the ground that their conduct was not tortious, but rather that the tort is not recognized as a cause of action.


The appellate court agreed and reversed.  The court based its holding on the fact that neither the Supreme Court of Texas nor the Fort Worth Court of Appeals have expressly recognized the tort.  [The case was transferred from the Fort Worth Court to the Amarillo Court by the Supreme Court of Texas as part of its docket equalization efforts.]


The strong dissent points out that six of the Texas intermediate appellate courts have recognized the tort including the Amarillo court.  In addition, six other courts, including the Fort Worth court, have discussed the tort without rejecting it.


Note:  Surprisingly, neither opinion cited to Estates Code § 54.001 [formerly Probate Code § 10C] which, in my opinion, impliedly provides legislative recognition of the tort.  In relevant part, this section states, “The filing or contesting in probate court of a pleading relating to a decedents’ estate does not constitute tortious interference with inheritance of the estate.”  Why would the legislature say something cannot be tortious interference if Texas does not recognize the tort in the first place?


Moral:  At the moment, individuals residing in the areas encompassed by the Fort Worth Court of Appeals may tortiously interfere with inheritance rights without fear of liability for so doing if they are lucky enough to have the case transferred to the Amarillo court.