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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Sonia Gomez sued Melissa Raines in a justice court for failure to pay rent. After Raines failed to appear, the justice court awarded Gomez $5,000 plus court costs. Raines appealed to a county court-at-law, but did not appear at trial. The judgment against Raines was eventually reversed by this court because of problems with notice. Though this court’s mandate issued Dec. 10, 2003, the trial court had already conducted a new trial, and, again, Raines did not appear. The trial court granted Gomez a default judgment once again. In its findings of fact, the trial court said that Raines’ whereabouts were unknown, noting that all correspondence by Raines with the court was through mail without a return address. The court also found that since no testimony was taken at trial, it was deferring to the lower court’s findings, and that Raines failed to deposit the monthly rate during the proceedings, as required by the court, with the exception of $200, or one month’s rent. In its conclusions of law, the court found that all proper procedures, including those for notice, had been followed, and that Gomez was entitled to back rent and other relief. Raines appeals, raising several issues. HOLDING:Affirmed in part; reversed and remanded in part. The court first rejects Raines’ contention that the trial court erred by finding she did not deposit $200 into the court’s registry. The court says that Raines has “clearly misunderstood” the court’s finding, which said she hadn’t paid any back rent, “with the exception” of $200. Raines next argues that the trial court’s judgment was invalid, as it came before this court’s mandate in the first action. The court finds that the issuance of an appellate court’s mandate is unnecessary to render a judgment final. Raines then asserts that the trial court erred by finding that Raines’ location was unknown since she had given the clerk a rural route number in Paris. The court finds that there is one letter from the court to Raines at the Paris address, but that envelope had no postal cancellation. The one envelope is not proof that the trial court had notice of Raines’ proper mailing address, especially in light of the fact that all other correspondence from Raines lacked a return address. The court overrules Raines’ argument that the trial court should have conducted a trial de novo instead of deferring to the lower court. The court refers to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 239, which says that a trial court can enter a default judgment solely based on a party’s failure to appear. In response to Raines’ claim that the evidence did not support the judgment, the court again points out that Raines’ failure to appear at trial was properly deemed as an admission to the facts in Gomez’s original petition. The court finds the notice of the trial setting was proper. The court also finds evidence that Gomez’s notice to Raines to vacate the premises before first filing suit was proper. Raines contends the trial court should have granted her motion to vacate the default judgment, pointing out that because the property was uninhabitable, there was no enforceable rental agreement. She filed a document from TXU Electric & Gas that supposedly gave notice to occupants of the residence that the company turned off the gas because of leaking pipes. The court notices that the document was merely filed during the course of litigation, but without verification. At best, the document is hearsay, the court finds, so it cannot be considered as evidence that the residence was uninhabitable. The court finds that Gomez’s petition gave Raines sufficient information to enable her to prepare a defense, so there is no merit to Raines’ assertion that Gomez failed to plead a viable cause of action. Raines says she did not receive 45 days’ notice of the trial setting. Under T.R.Civ.P. 245, a court may set contested cases on written request of any party, or on the court’s own motion, with reasonable notice of not less than 45 days to the parties of a first setting for trial, or by agreement of the parties; provided, however, that when a case previously has been set for trial, the court may reset said contested case to a later date on any reasonable notice to the parties or by agreement of the parties. This case had previously been set for trial Dec. 20, 2001. Accordingly, the trial court was not required to give Raines 45 days’ notice of future hearing dates but only required to give reasonable notice. The trial court sent Raines a notice of the trial setting 28 days in advance, which the court holds is a reasonable amount of time given the procedural history of the case. The court does, however, agree with Raines that the damages award must be reversed. The court notices from the record that the evidence presented by Gomez of Raines’ failure to pay rent happened during the first trial. On remand from this court, similar testimony was not elicited, and the trial court was not asked to take judicial notice. The court concludes that it can remand solely on the issue of damages, rather than on the whole proceeding, because Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 44.1(b) expressly authorize an appeals court to remand a case for a hearing on unliquidated damages when, as is the case here, conducting a separate hearing solely on damages will not be unfair to the parties. OPINION:Ross, J.; Morriss, C.J., Ross and Carter, JJ.

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