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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 1992 and again in 1996, Robert and Gilda Bonds entered into investment account agreements with Olde Discount Corp. Both contracts contained arbitration clauses covering “any and all controversies or claims arising out of the relationship established by this agreement or any corresponding agreement to arbitration.” Robert Bullock, an Olde employee, signed both on Olde’s behalf. When Olde changed its name in 2000 to H&R Block Financial Advisors Inc., Bullock continued to advise the Bonds, and recommended investments in Enron Corp. In 2001, H&R Block sent the Bonds an addendum to their account agreements that changed some terms but did not mention arbitration. After losing a substantial investment in the Enron debacle, the Bonds sued H&R Block and Bullock in October 2002. Although they had signed contracts with the firm containing broad arbitration clauses, they sought to avoid them on grounds that: 1. the firm had changed its name, and 2. the employee did not sign the contracts in his personal capacity. In their suit, the Bonds alleged negligence, gross negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of the Texas Securities Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Bonds sought recovery of their entire $119,031.92 investment in Enron. H&R Block and Bullock moved to stay proceedings pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals denied mandamus relief. HOLDING:The court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus. The Bonds, the court stated, conceded that they signed an arbitration agreement with Olde, but argued that H&R Block and Bullock are nonsignatories who cannot invoke it. But H&R Block established that it was the same company as Olde, now operating under a different name. H&R Block tendered affidavits and a Certificate of Amendment showing that Olde amended its Articles of Incorporation in July 2000 to change its name to H&R Block. Under ordinary legal principles, the court stated, a contracting party that has merely changed its name is still a contracting party. Accordingly, the court found that the company’s change of name does not prevent it from invoking its own arbitration agreements. Nor can the Bonds, the court stated, skirt arbitration with Bullock when the substance of the suit is against both him and his employer. Bullock had no duty to provide investment advice to the Bonds but for their contract with Olde/H&R Block, and the damages the Bonds sought is the investment they made through that contract. As Bullock’s liability arises from and must be determined by reference to the parties’ contract rather than general obligations imposed by law, the suit is subject to the contract’s arbitration provisions. The Bonds claimed that the 2001 addendum to the agreement overrode the earlier account agreements, thus invalidating the arbitration agreement. But the court found that the addendum’s first two sentences expressly incorporate all nonconflicting terms of the earlier agreements. Finally, the Bonds asserted that the trial court properly refused to compel arbitration, because the evidence regarding Olde’s name change was not produced promptly in response to discovery requests. But the court stated that once Bullock and H&R Block tendered this undisputed evidence, the trial court was not at liberty to ignore it. Accordingly, without hearing oral argument, the court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to order that the Bonds’ claims proceed to arbitration. OPINION:Per curiam.

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