You Can Sue Your Stalker

Are you being stalked?

The Texas legislature has set out a specific claim for money damages against a person who may be stalking you.  Stalking, or “harassing behavior” is defined as “conduct by the defendant directed specifically toward the claimant, including following the claimant, that is reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass the claimant.”  To sue successfully recover in a lawsuit for stalking, a claimant must show:

(1) on more than one occasion the defendant engaged in harassing behavior;

(2) as a result of the harassing behavior, the claimant reasonably feared for the claimant’s safety or the safety of a member of the claimant’s family; and

(3) the defendant violated a restraining order prohibiting harassing behavior or:

(A) the defendant, while engaged in harassing behavior, by acts or words threatened to inflict bodily injury on the claimant or to commit an offense against the claimant, a member of the claimant’s family, or the claimant’s property;

(B) the defendant had the apparent ability to carry out the threat;

(C) the defendant’s apparent ability to carry out the threat caused the claimant to reasonably fear for the claimant’s safety or the safety of a family member;

(D) the claimant at least once clearly demanded that the defendant stop the defendant’s harassing behavior;

(E) after the demand to stop by the claimant, the defendant continued the harassing behavior; and

(F) the harassing behavior has been reported to the police as a stalking offense.

If you live in San Antonio, Texas, or the surrounding metropolitan area, and can prove your claim, you can get a money judgment against your stalker.  If you are caught in this unfortunate situation, call my office and I can advise you in more detail regarding your rights.

Water Damage from Neighbor’s Property?

If you have suffered water intrusion into your home, garage, or property in San Antonio, Texas, your neighbor may be financially responsible for your damages.  Many states follow the “common enemy” doctrine which states that surface water is the common enemy of every property owner. Union v. Durkes, 38 N.J.L. 21, 22 (1875). The common enemy doctrine embraces the idea that because water is a common enemy, surface water may diverted at the land owner’s discretion, though the diversion may injure an adjacent land owner. Miller v. Letzerich, 121 Tex. 248, 258, 49 S.W.2d 404, 409 (1932). However, Texas is different.  Texas has modified the doctrine by holding landowners responsible for damage to neighboring property due to diversion of surface water.

Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code provides that:

(a) No person may divert or impound the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion or impounding by him to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded.

(b) A person whose property is injured by an overflow of water caused by an unlawful diversion or impounding has remedies at law and in equity and may recover damages occasioned by the overflow.
Tex. Water Code Ann. § 11.086 (West 2017).

This means that if you have suffered a flooded home, garage, or backyard in San Antonio as a result of your neighbor’s landscaping, or modification of his yard, he may be financially responsible for your ruined carpet, sheet rock or other damages.  You can sue him to recover money for the damage to your property.  With all of the recent flooding and rainfall in San Antonio and South Texas, you may have run into this problem.  If you have, the lawyers at our firm can help.

Texas Tax Amnesty Program

The Texas Tax Amnesty Program will run from May 1, 2018, through June 29, 2018.

The Texas Tax Amnesty Program will, under certain circumstances, provide delinquent taxpayers with relief from penalties and interest on tax due. Tax amnesty applies to periods before Jan. 1, 2018, and only includes liabilities that have not been previously reported to the Comptroller’s office. If a taxpayer has been notified that a period or periods are scheduled for an audit review, or if they are already under audit review, then those periods are not eligible for amnesty. It does not apply to accounts which have been certified to the Office of the Attorney General, accounts which are presently in litigation, or accounts which have been reduced to judgment. Additionally, the amnesty doesn’t apply to local motor vehicle tax, IFTA taxes, PUC gross receipts assessments or unclaimed property payments.

Program participants can “wipe the slate clean” by filing past due reports, or amending reports that underreported taxes, without paying penalties or interest. You can also register for taxes that should have been reported, and catch up on those reports that should have been filed, without paying penalties or interest.

All state and local taxes and fees the Comptroller’s office administers are eligible, with the exception of Public Utility Commission gross receipts assessments. The Comptroller does not administer sports and community venue tax or property taxes, so these are not eligible. The Unclaimed Property program and IFTA taxes are not a part of tax amnesty.

Check out the Texas State Comptroller’s FAQ:

Received a Demand Letter or been Sued by Joe Hand Promotions?

If You Have Been Sued by Joe Hand Promotions Do Not Ignore the Letter, FIGHT BACK!

If you are a bar or nightclub owner and you got a nasty letter from Joe Hand Promotions saying you owe them big money for illegally showing the UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor fight, any UFC fight, or any other pay-per-view event then DO NOT IGNORE THE LETTER –  THEY WILL SUE YOU!

Even if You Showed the Fight Innocently You May Still be in Trouble

Most likely you showed or televised this fight thinking you paid the proper fees to do so; however, if you are a commercial establishment and you showed an event to your patrons, you have to pay Joe Hand a special licensing fee.  If you fail to do this you may be in violation of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 553 or 605).  This law provides strict liability against you (meaning the plaintiff does not have to show an intentional violation) if, by satellite transmission or the use of a cable system, if you show a closed-circuit event without proper authorization from the owner (Joe Hand Promotions).

Joe Hand uses Investigators

On fight nights, Joe Hand will send out an “auditor,” or private investigator, to how many televisions you have, which ones are showing the fight, how many customers you have, and what you are charging for food or drinks.  Joe Hand will try and use this against you.

Joe Hand Will Try and Foreclose Against Your Bar or Restaurant

They will then send you a demand letter asking for an outrageous amount of money.  If you ignore it, they will sue you and try and take a judgment against you.  They may very well be successful.  After they obtain the judgment they will attempt to levy on your bar or restaurant and you may lose your bar or restaurant. Don’t let this happen.

The Rutherford Law Firm Successfully Defends These Claims

Our firm has handled a number of these cases in the San Antonio area and throughout Texas.  There are good defenses to these claims and judges will listen to them but you will need a lawyer to defend you.  Call The Rutherford Law Firm immediately at 210-225-4200 if you have received a letter from The Law Offices of Thomas P. Riley, the Korn Diaz Firm, or any other law firm on behalf of Joe Hand Promotions.

Property Damage from Harvey? Why you Should File a Claim by Sept. 1


The impact of Hurricane Harvey has been devastating to Houston and other parts of Texas. As we deal with the impact of the storm, we need to keep in mind our rights as property owners.

There is a new law that takes effect this week of which most people are completely unaware.

If you have property damage to your home or business – including from Hurricane Harvey – and you need to make a claim with your insurance company, take action BEFORE this Friday, September 1, 2017.

Why? As you know, the Texas legislature meets every two years. They met this year and passed House Bill 1774 which impacts the rights and remedies available to property owners under the Texas Insurance Code. This new law specifically applies to property damage claims involving “forces of nature” – such as floods, tornados, hurricanes, hail, wind, rainstorms, and wildfires. This new law takes effect this Friday, September 1, 2017.

To fall under the current laws which are more favorable to consumers and property owners, policyholders should send notice in writing to their insurance company that (1) specifically references their claim, AND (2) is dated BEFORE September 1, 2017.

Telephone calls are not enough. Put it in writing – mail, fax, or email. And, keep a copy of what you send.

To view the new law click here.

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice, but to provide a general understanding of the law. Readers with legal issues, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular circumstances.

This article was original published at

Protesting Property Tax Evaluation 101 (The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease!)


Protest Your Taxes

Although it is helpful (and recommended) to have an attorney to protest your property taxes, you CAN do it.  Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease!  This guide helps explain the process of protesting your taxes and how to build and present your case to the Appraisal Review Board.

Difference between Chief Appraiser and Appraisal Review Board

The appraisal district is composed of two separate and distinct divisions or sections. One is the Chief Appraiser and his employee appraisers who actually set the values of properties for taxation purposes. The second is the Appraisal Review Board which is composed of volunteer citizens of the county who sit in panels of three to hear and decide a protest.

Notice of Valuation

In the first few months of a tax year the Chief Appraiser and his employees will set values of all properties in the county. These will be posted on the appraisal district website and can be searched by property owner’s name or property address. Once the property values have been set for the given tax year only those properties where the value has been increased will receive a notice from the appraisal district notifying the property owner that their property value has been increased. It will show the amount of property value for the previous year and the amount of property value for the current tax year as proposed by the  appraisal district’s appraisal.

Deadline to File Protest

These notices are mailed to property owners during the latter part of April or the early part of May of a given year. Once you have received this notice of increased property value, you have until May 31st of the current year to file your protest with the Appraisal Review Board. Please note that the protest is filed with the Appraisal Review Board, not the Chief Appraiser or his employees. There are a number of grounds upon which you can protest value of your property, but the most common of those reasons are you believe that your property has been valued: (1) above its fair market value or (2) unequally with the properties in your immediate area or neighborhood. Under this second issue, the substance of your protest is that your property has been valued in excess of the other properties of similar character in your neighborhood and you are protesting the inequality of said valuation.

The form you receive from the appraisal district (at least in the bigger Texas counties) will have a number of protest reasons on the reverse side and you can simply check them.

Valid Reasons to Protest

It is the experience of this writer, who having protested property tax values for the last 20 years and having filed more than 15 lawsuits against the appraisal district, your best reason to protest is that your property has been appraised unequally with similarly situated properties in your immediate neighborhood. As a general rule the appraisal district will always appraise the property at a value something less than what it will bring in a fair market sale so trying to protest that your property has been appraised at less than fair market value is usually a dead end for the taxpayer.

Hearing before Appraisal Review Board

Once you have filed your protest you will then receive a notice to appear before the Appraisal Review Board. Remember this entity is different from the Chief Appraiser and his employees. This is a board that has been established by law that is composed of volunteer citizens of the county.  The board sits in panels of three to hear and decide the protest. At that protest hearing you will be before three citizens who are judges so to speak, and an employee of the Chief Appraiser who will be your opponent. It will be your goal to convince the three citizen members of the panel that your property has been valued unequally compared to other properties similarly situated in your immediate neighborhood. You are given an extremely limited period of time in which to present your case and it is this writer’s experience that this is done to confuse the taxpayer and create anxiety on the part of the taxpayer who is not in a familiar sitting and who will have a difficult time trying to present his or her case to the three-member review board.

Preparing Your Case for a Protest Hearing (Do Your Homework)

The best way to prepare yourself for the protest hearing is to drive round your neighborhood in your car and look for houses you believe are similar to yours in size, structure, and value. Some things to remember are: (1) lot size, (2) lot location, and (3) porches, patios, swimming pools, and other items that may distinguish the property from yours. After you have found five or six properties that you believe are similar to yours in character, take color photographs of them (smartphones with camera and email capability work well  — email them to yourself so you can print them out.  Make sure they are at least 8×10 and in color). Make a note of the address of these properties and make certain that you have the photographs correctly identified with the addresses.

Next, check the appraisal district’s website (here is a list of all of Texas’ appraisal district websites) to do a property search and you can search for these five or six properties by address. When you find the comparable properties, you can find listed information such as lot size, square footage of living area, other characteristics and features of the properties, and the properties’ appraised values. You can then make a comparison of the square footage of the living area of these five or six properties to your property.  Do this until you find at least three or four properties that have approximately the same amount of living area with a market value of less than what the appraisal district is proposing to increase your taxes to.

If you are incline to do so you can simply divide the square footage of the living area square feet into the market value for the current tax year and that number will tell you how many dollars per square foot the property is valued at. Do the same thing with your property then you can compare all of the properties you have located with your per square foot value to determine whether or not your property is valued equally to the properties you have selected.

Once you have found at least three or four properties that are valued substantially less per square foot than yours you can then take an average of those lesser valued properties and argue to the appraisal review board that your property is not valued equally with the average of the three or four properties you have selected for comparison purposes.

Other factors that you can argue to the appraisal review board panel is such things as the condition of your roof, the condition of your exterior paint, perhaps a cracked slab or other defective conditions of your house which are not readily apparent to an appraiser who is appraising a property from an aerial photograph. If you have a substantial defect in your home or property you should get a bid from a local contractor to repair same and take that with you to bolster your argument that your property is not worth the fair market value they have assigned to you.

Do not be surprised or disheartened if the appraisal review board fails to accept your argument and decides with the appraisal district’s appraiser present in the room.

10% Rule

If your taxes have gone up more than 10% from the previous year, you want to seriously consider a protest.

Section 23.23 of the Texas Property Tax Code provides as follows:

(a)  An appraisal office may increase the appraised value of a residence homestead for a tax year to an amount not to exceed the lesser of

(1)  the market value of the property for the most recent tax year that the market value was determined by the appraisal office; or

(2)  the sum of:

(A)  10 percent of the appraised value of the property for the preceding tax year;

(B)  the appraised value of the property for the preceding tax year; and

(C)  the market value of all new improvements to the property.

Appealing the Review Board’s Decision

If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the Appraisal Review Board you have two options. One option is to elect to go to arbitration.  If you do, you will have to deposit $500.00 with the appraisal district to pay your share of an arbitration. I have never ever heard of an arbitrator deciding in favor of the taxpayer.  The appraisal district will provide you with a list of arbitrators from which you can select one and I can assure you that all the arbitrator’s on the list make a living from deciding  appraisal district cases. Your other option is to appeal the case to the district court of the county in which your property lies, and if you elect to do that you only have thirty days to file your lawsuit in district court or the decision of the appraisal review board will become final.

If you decide to appeal to the district court you should most definitely hire a lawyer because this type of case is so technical that a layman would surely fail in such an effort without the aid of an attorney. The good news is that if you win in district court the appraisal district has to pay your attorney’s fees and court cost.





Protecting Property and Cash from a Judgment

Ignoring a  lawsuit could have very serious consequences. If you do not answer a lawsuit, it will most likely result in a default judgment against you. The amount of the judgment may include the debt, damages, attorney’s fees, court costs, and pre and post-judgment interest.

The following is a non-exclusive list of remedies a debt collector can use to recover a judgment.


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Yes, You Can Carry a Gun in Your Car in Texas

In Texas, it is generally illegal to carry a handgun outside of a person’s own premises. However, a person may carry, either open or concealed, in a non-threatening or alarming manner, a shotgun or rifle. However even with a handgun, in Texas, there are several places where a person may possess a handgun legally without the benefit of a Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL). These places include:

  • A person’s residence or other real property under their control.
  • A person’s private motor vehicle or watercraft if the handgun is concealed, and the person is legal to possess a firearm, is not a member of a street gang, and is not engaged in the commission of a crime greater than a Class C misdemeanor traffic or boating violation.
  • A person engaged in lawful fishing, hunting, or other sporting activity on the immediate premises where the activity is conducted, or is en route between the premises and the persons’ residence or motor vehicle, if the firearm is a type commonly used in the activity.
  • While storing a loaded firearm, it must be in a place which cannot be accessed by a child under the age of 17, or secured with a trigger lock if there is reason to know that a child under 17 may gain access to the firearm.

Served with Summons. Now What?

If you have been properly served with a lawsuit, the clock is ticking on when you must respond and answer. The guidelines below will help you if you have been served with a lawsuit in Texas.

Deadline to Respond

There are two different deadlines to know if you have been served with a lawsuit. This article does not discuss deadlines for alternative services.

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