Anderson v. Archer, 490 S.W.3d 175 (Tex. App.—Austin 2016, pet. filed).


Tortious Interference With Inheritance Rights

Austin District


The jury determined that Defendant tortiously interfered with Plaintiffs’ rights to inherit from their uncle and the court award over $2.5 million in damages. Defendant appealed.


The court reversed holding that Texas does not recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance. The court conducted a detailed review of the numerous Texas cases discussing tortious interference and determined that although they may have discussed the tort, they never actually recognized it. The court also refused to interpret Estates Code § 54.001 as a legislative admission that the tort exists merely because this provision provides that filing or contesting a will is not tortious interference. The court then explained that express legislative action or a decision of the Texas Supreme Court is needed to recognize the tort.


The court also noted that Plaintiffs had already received the property with which they alleged Defendant tortiously interfered. The main component of their damages was not the recovery of the uncle’s property but rather attorneys’ fees incurred to receive their inheritance. Thus, Plaintiffs were actually using the tort as a fee-shifting mechanism to recover fees otherwise unrecoverable due to Texas following the American Rule that the winning party cannot recover attorneys’ fees unless authorized by statute.


Moral:  Whether Texas courts may award damages for tortious interference with inheritance rights is in a state of flux as intermediate appellate courts have differing opinions. Hopefully, the Texas Supreme Court will grant petition to one of these cases and decide the issue.