Archer v. Anderson, 556 S.W.3d 228 (Tex. 2018).


Tortious Interference With Inheritance Rights


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 intermediate appellate court reversed holding that Texas does not recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance. Anderson v. Archer, 490 S.W.3d 175 (Tex. App.—Austin 2016). 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.


On appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas, the court affirmed holding, “The tort of intentional interference with inheritance is not recognized in Texas.” The court reasoned that “existing law affords adequate remedies for the wrongs the tort would redress” such as a constructive trust. In addition, “the tort would conflict with Texas probate law.” The court closed the door on this issue which was left open by the court’s opinion in Kinsel v. Lindsey, 526 S.W.3d 411 (Tex. 2017).


Note that the concurring and dissenting opinion agreed that in this case, the tort should not be recognized but would have left the issue open for a subsequent case with more appropriate facts.


Moral:  A claim of tortious interference with inheritance rights will fail in Texas. It is up to the Legislature to create this cause of action.