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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The plaintiffs in this case are sisters, J.T.T. and M.T. Dung Huu Khuat, a Buddhist monk, raped and otherwise sexually assaulted them while they were guests at a Buddhist temple in Pomona, California. Khuat was convicted in California of rape and other sexual assaults of the sisters. They brought suit in Texas against Khuat, who did not appear at trial, and four other defendants. The jury was instructed that the “negligence” of Khuat caused “the occurrence in question,” and the jury was asked to find whether the negligence of any of the other four defendants proximately caused “the occurrence in question.” The charge permitted the jury to find negligence on the part of the operator of the California temple based on simple negligence, premises liability, or both. The jury found the two clergymen as well as the operator of the California temple negligent, but it failed to find the Houston-based Buddhist Culture Center negligent. At the conclusion of a jury trial, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of J.T.T. and M.T. against some but not all defendants on some but not all legal theories the sisters had asserted. J.T.T. and M.T. appealed. The only remaining parties to the appeal in the Texas Supreme Court are J.T.T. and M.T., the Theravada Buddhist Corp., which operated the California temple, and a monk at the California temple who was also an officer of the Theravada Buddhist Corp. In the court of appeals, J.T.T. and M.T. challenged the trial court’s failure to give effect to the juries conspiracy-related findings and the failure to render judgment against the TBC officer in his individual capacity. The court of appeals sustained these points and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to reform the judgment by imposing joint and several liability against the three remaining defendants (the rapist Khuat, the operator of the California temple Theravada Buddhist Corp., and the TBC officer) and to render judgment against the TBC officer individually for 5 percent of the sisters’ damages. The court of appeals also directed the trial court to reduce Theravada Buddhist Corp.’s percentage of liability for the actual damages to 5 percent from 10 percent. HOLDING:Reversed. There cannot be a civil conspiracy to be negligent. The court of appeals acknowledged this rule of law but concluded that it “does not entail that parties cannot conspire to cause injury by their negligence, for, in such a case, the gist of the conspiracy is not negligence, but the injury the conspirators specifically intend to cause.” The court dismisses this statement as circular. Civil conspiracy is a ground of recovery that has more than one element. If one or more elements of that cause of action was omitted from the charge, and there was no request to include the omitted element or objection to its exclusion, and no written findings were made by the trial court on the omitted element, then the omitted element must be deemed found by the trial court in a manner that supports its judgment. In this case, the judgment did not include any liability based on conspiracy, and therefore, the trial court will be deemed to have found the omitted element in support of its judgment if the other requirements of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 279 are met. J.T.T. and M.T. do not contend that they objected to the way the conspiracy issue was submitted, and the limited record does not contain any objections to the charge. Nor do the sisters suggest that there are written findings by the trial court on this issue. The only question, then, is whether an element of recovery based on conspiracy was omitted. J.T.T. and M.T. contend that the jury’s findings regarding a conspiracy are necessarily referable to Khuat’s sexual assaults and not the jury’s negligence findings. They contend that it was undisputed that Khuat committed sexual assault. While it was undisputed that Khuat committed sexual assault, it was not undisputed that the other defendants conspired to commit those sexual assaults. The jury also found that some defendants were negligent and that the negligence caused “the occurrence in question.” The charge permitted the jury to conclude that the “common objective or course of action” to which some of the defendants agreed was the same course of action on which the jury based its negligence findings. In analyzing the sisters’ point of error regarding their conspiracy theory, the court of appeals strayed from the limited record that was before it and was diverted from the only issue regarding conspiracy, the court finds. “Instead of focusing on the charge and the jury’s findings, the court of appeals attempted to find evidence of a conspiracy. It did so even though no evidence was before the court and no complaint about the factual or legal sufficiency of the evidence had been made by any party.” As another basis for its conclusion that an actionable conspiracy had been found by the jury, the court of appeals reasoned that “by expressly granting the sisters’ motion for rendition of judgment on the verdict, and by expressly denying the defendants motions’ to disregard the jury’s findings and to render judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the trial court bound itself to render a judgment affording the sisters all of the relief to which they were entitled by the jury’s verdict.” The court disagrees. The court of appeals concluded that, in rendering a take-nothing judgment in favor of the TBC officer, the trial court effectively rendered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Supreme Court disagrees. The jury’s findings were not disturbed, set aside, or disregarded by the trial court. The TBC officer was found negligent, and the trial court gave effect to that finding by holding his employer liable for his negligence. The legal effect of the jury’s negligence finding against the officer remained a matter to be determined by the court, not the factfinder. OPINION:Owen, J., delivered the court’s opinion. Brister and Johnson, JJ., did not participate in the decision.

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