In Anderson v. Archer, 03-13-00790-CV, 2016 WL 589017 (Tex. App.—Austin Mar. 2, 2016, no pet. h.), the Austin Court of Appeals flatly rejected the existence of a Texas common-law cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance. After the jury awarded $2.5 million in damages based on a finding that the defendant tortiously interfered with the plaintiffs’ rights to an inheritance from their uncle, the dispositive issue on appeal was whether Texas law recognizes the cause of action. Because neither the Texas Legislature nor the Texas Supreme Court has yet to recognize a tortious interference with inheritance claim, the Austin Court held that the cause of action does not exist and reversed the jury verdict.
The Anderson holding comes on the heels of Walker v. Kinsel, 07-13-00130-CV, 2015 WL 2085220 (Tex. App.—Amarillo Apr. 10, 2015), reh’g overruled (May 21, 2015), in which the Amarillo Court of Appeals also held that it could not legitimately recognize a cause of action for tortiously interfering with one’s inheritance without authority from the Texas Supreme Court or the Texas Legislature.
Not all courts are as dismissive of the cause of action. A tortious interference with inheritance claim is described in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 774B and was recognized to be a cause of action by the First Court of Appeals in King v. Acker, 725 S.W.2d 750 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, no writ). The Acker court relied on the well-settled principle in Texas law that any intentional invasion or interference with a property right without just cause is an actionable tort. Since Acker, various intermediate courts have joined in this reasoning to recognize such claims.
Despite Acker and its progeny, however, the Texas Supreme Court has yet to recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance. As such, there is no certainty under Texas law as to whether the claim is permissible. As evidenced by Anderson and Walker, a jury award premised on a finding that a party tortiously interfered with another’s inheritance rights may be subject to reversal on appeal.
By Cassie Garza Matheson on March 22, 2016