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Torts No. 01-02-00346-CV, 6/5/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Appellants, Melissa Smith, individually and as next friend of William Lee Smith, Edward Daniel Smith, and Jedidiah Keith Smith, minors, and on behalf of the estate of Danny Smith, deceased; Linda Smith, individually and on behalf of the estate of Danny Smith, deceased; Christy Smith Danna, individually and on behalf of the estate of Danny Smith, deceased; Bobby Smith, individually and on behalf of the estate of Danny Smith, deceased; and William Preston Smith, individually and on behalf of the estate of Danny Smith, deceased, and as next friend of Celby Smith, Cade Smith, and Cody Smith (collectively, the Smiths), challenge a take-nothing judgment rendered in favor of appellee, Cudd Pressure Control Inc. (Cudd), on the Smiths’ claims for negligence and products liability brought against Cudd arising from a fatal gas well explosion. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the Smiths and awarded actual damages of approximately $14.7 million. Based on its application of Texas’s dollar-for-dollar settlement credit statute, the trial court entered a take-nothing judgment against the Smiths. In their sole issue, the Smiths contend that, following the verdict, the trial court erred in applying Texas’s dollar-for-dollar settlement credit, instead of Louisiana’s proportionate settlement credit, to reduce the amount of damages awarded by the jury. HOLDING: Affirmed. In support of their argument that Louisiana’s proportionate settlement credit should be applied in this case, the Smiths contend that a conflict of laws analysis is required and that Louisiana is the state with the “most significant relationship” to the settlement credit issue. However, Chapter 33 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code expressly governs the settlement credit issue in this case. Chapter 33 applies to “any cause of action based on tort in which a defendant, settling person, or responsible third party is found responsible for a percentage of the harm for which relief is sought.” Section 33.012 requires that the trial court reduce a judgment according to one of two methods – a dollar-for-dollar credit or a sliding scale – elected by the defendant. Thus, �33.012 requiresa trial court to reduce damages when there is a settlement covering some or all of the damages awarded in the judgment. The only question is by what amount the trial court should reduce the damages. A defendant must file an election for a dollar-for-dollar settlement credit before the case is submitted to the jury. The burden is upon such a defendant seeking a settlement credit to prove the settlement credit amount by placing the settlement agreement or some evidence of the settlement agreement into the record. Here, Cudd properly followed the statutory requirements to establish a dollar-for-dollar settlement credit. The record reflects that Cudd filed a written dollar-for-dollar credit election before the case was submitted to the jury. Cudd’s written election set forth evidence of the dollar amounts of all settlements entered into by the Smiths, as established by the Smiths’ responses to requests for admissions. Thus, the trial court was required, under Chapter 33, to reduce the amount of the Smiths’ damages dollar-for-dollar. The Smiths contend, however, that “Cudd presented its motion requesting a Texas credit after the jury returned its verdict.” The Smiths assert that the holding in Utts v. Short, 81 S.W.3d 822 (Tex. 2002), provides a party with an opportunity, at this point, “to show why the Texas credit should not apply” after the jury has returned its verdict. However, the Smiths misconstrue Utts, which concerns cases involving facts suggesting that a nonsettling plaintiffmay have “benefited from a settling plaintiff’s settlement proceeds.” The Texas Supreme Court in Uttsprovided a nonsettling defendantwith a remedy for such a “sham” and reaffirmed the written election requirement of section 33.014. The Smiths’ claim also falls under the “One Satisfaction Rule,” which was designed to prevent a windfall to plaintiffs, and dictates that when a plaintiff files a suit against multiple defendants for a single injury, any settlements will be credited against the amount for which nonsettling defendants are found liable. The rationale for this doctrine is that a plaintiff should not receive a windfall by recovering an amount in court that covers the plaintiff’s entire damages, but to which a settling defendant has already partially contributed. Appellants ask this court for a piecemeal application of Chapter 33, in which they would keep the comparative causation findings of the jury, made under Subchapter A, entitled “Proportionate Responsibility,” but exclude the application of a settlement credit made under Subchapter B, entitled “Contribution.” Only after the jury had returned its verdict did the Smiths request that the trial court take judicial notice of and apply Louisiana’s proportionate settlement credit. A conflict of laws analysis regarding Louisiana’s proportionate settlement credit is improper because Chapter 33 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code expressly applies to “any cause of action based on tort in which a defendant, settling person, or responsible third party is found responsible for a percentage of the harm for which relief is sought.” After the jury found Cudd liable for negligence and assessed its proportionate responsibility under Chapter 33, the trial court was required, pursuant to Cudd’s written election, to apply a dollar-for-dollar settlement credit to reduce the amount of damages awarded to the Smiths. Accordingly, the court holds that the trial court did not err in applying Texas’s dollar-for-dollar settlement credit, and overrules the Smiths’ sole issue. OPINION: Jennings, J; Taft, Jennings and Hanks, JJ

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