Failure To Award Nominal Sanction Under Texas Citizens Participation Act Is Not Reversible Error


On November 22, the Texas Court of Appeals, sitting in Fort Worth, decided a case involving mandatory sanctions awarded under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). In Rich v. Range Resources Corporation, et al., the Court of Appeals determined that although that denial of sanctions was erroneous, it was not harmful; error.

In 2003, Range Resources Corporation (Range) filed a lawsuit against Rich and other persons alleging their objections to Range’s fracking operations were defamatory. Ms. Rich invoked the protections of the TCPA, and Range’s lawsuit was dismissed, and on remand, she was awarded over $470,000 in attorney’s fees. She also filed a motion with the trial court seeking sanctions, awardable under the TCPA, for $30 million. The trial court denied that motion in its entirety, and this appeal followed.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Range that sanctions would serve no purpose since there was nothing to deter because no further lawsuits have been filed. While the letter of the law required some amount of sanctions to be awarded, it confirmed that a failure to award even nominal damages is not reversible error.