A Texas Court of Appeals has ruled that a music production company can sue an Atlanta-based hip-hop artist for breach of contract in a Houston state court even though the performer claimed he had no connection to the Lone Star State.
The case involves Wilbart McCoy, a Georgia resident who performs under the name “Vedo.” In 2014, McCoy signed an exclusive recording contract with Platinum Power Moves (PPM), an Oklahoma-based company, according to the decision.
The contract provided that PPM would have the exclusive right to enter into agreements with major record label distributors and if they failed to enter into a distribution agreement within 18 months that McCoy could terminate the contract.
The contract also included a venue provision stating that any dispute between the parties would be resolved in state or federal courts in Houston.
PPM later sued McCoy in a Houston state district court in 2016 alleging they had secured two distribution agreements for McCoy but that McCoy had improperly terminated his contract with PPM.
McCoy filed an original answer to PPM’s lawsuit in February 2017 stating a general denial and requesting a judgment in his favor in addition to attorney fees.
However, three months later, McCoy filed a special appearance motion requesting that the trial court dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. In that motion, McCoy argued that he lacked sufficient contacts with Texas to be sued in its courts, attaching an affidavit to his motion that stated: “I am not a resident, nor have I ever been, of the State of Texas. I am a resident of Georgia.”
PPM argued that it had properly filed suit in Texas state court due to the forum selection clause in the parties’ contract. The trial court judge denied McCoy’s special appearance motion, a decision he appealed to Houston’s First Court of Appeals.
In its decision, the Fifth Circuit ruled that McCoy waived the trial court’s lack of jurisdiction over him by making a general appearance in the case.
“Once a party has filed an answer or otherwise appeared, that party is ‘before the court for all purposes,’” wrote Justice Evelyn Keyes. “Thus, when a nonresident defendant makes a general appearance in a suit by filing his original answer before his sworn special appearance, the defendant waives his special appearance”
“Because McCoy made a general appearance before filing his special appearance, McCoy waived his special appearance and his challenge to the trial court’s personal jurisdiction over him.’’
Tej Paranjpe, a partner in Houston’s Paranjpe & Mahadass who represents McCoy, did not return a call for comment. Neither did Derek Deyon, a Houston attorney who represents PPM.