The Swartz Law Firm, PLLC
Contact Us                                    469-909-1127                                      469-444-6906 (fax)

 Affirmative defenses are claims by one party that defeat a cause of action or claim established by another party. Cook Composites Inc. v. Westlake Styrene Corp., 15 S.W.3d 124 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, pet dism’d).  Affirmative defenses operate to limit or excuse or avoid a party’s liability and/or limit the amount of another party’s damages for which the party is responsible, even if the factual allegations of the other party’s claims are admitted or proven.  To assert an affirmative defense to another party’s claim in a lawsuit, the party must plead or describe the facts that constitute the defense.  

Scroll down to learn what facts or elements must be proved to establish the defense.

1.    Accord and satisfaction;
2.    Collateral estoppel;
3.    Discharge in bankruptcy;
4.    Duress; 
5.    Equitable Estoppel; 
6.    Failure of consideration;
7.    Failure to mitigate damages;
8.    Failure to satisfy a condition precedent
9.    lllegality; 
10.  Judicial estoppel;
11.  Laches;
12.  Mistake;
13.  Novation;
14.  Proportionate Responsibility;
15.  Quasi-estoppel;
16.  Ratification;
17.  Release;
18.  Setoff and recoupment; 
19.  Statute of frauds; 
20.  Statute of limitations; 
21.  Waiver;
22.  Express Assumption of Risk


    The accord and satisfaction defense rests upon a contract, express or implied, in which the parties agree to the discharge of an existing obligation by means of a lesser payment tendered and accepted. Jenkins v. Henry C. Beck Co., 449 S.W.2d 454, 455 (Tex.1969). 

    The elements of accord and satisfaction are

    (1) An express or implied new contract to discharge an existing obligation with something different from what the parties contemplated in the original contract, and
     (2) the new contract was performed. 

    Jenkins v. Henry C. Beck Co., 449 S.W.2d 454, 455 (Tex.1969).

    “Accord and satisfaction” is a well recognized legal method of discharging any kind of a contract or cause of action, where the parties agree to give and accept something in settlement of the claim or demand of one party against the other party, and the parties perform such agreement.  The “accord” is the agreement to discharge or settle the contract or cause of action, and the “satisfaction” is the execution or performance of the accord. Slaughter v. Temple Lumber Co., 307 S.W.2d 108, 115 (Tex.Civ.App.--Houston 1957, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

    For a dispute over a liquidated claim to constitute the basis for an accord and satisfaction, the dispute must be bona fide and not a mere denial of liability simulated for the purpose of forcing a settlement or escaping liability in whole or in part. Buford v. Inge Const. Co., 279 S.W. 513, 515 (Dallas Tex.Civ.App., 1925, no writ hist.).


    The elements of collateral estoppel are 

    1.  The facts sought to be litigated in a subsequent action must have been “fully and fairly litigated” in a prior action;
    2.  The court's determination of these facts must have been essential to the trial court's judgment in the prior action; and
    3.  The parties must have been “cast as adversaries” in the prior action. 

    In re H.E. Butt Grocery Co., 17 S.W.3d 360, 377 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, orig. proceeding).


    Discharge in bankruptcy is an affirmative defense that establishes a prima facie defense to any claim based on a prepetition debt. Tex.R. Civ. P. 94; Glass v. Prcin, 3 S.W.3d 135, 137 (Tex.App.- Amarillo 1999, pet. denied) (citing In re Haga, 131 B.R. 320, 327 (Bankr.W.D.Tex.1991)).  
    A discharge in bankruptcy operates to release the bankrupt debtor from all provable debts existing prior to the discharge adjudication. State v. National Bank of Cleburne, 116 Tex. 214, 218, 288 S.W. 435, 436 (Tex.Com.App. 1926, opinion adopted). When the bankrupt debtor is later sued on a debt existing at the time of the filing of the petition, the introduction of the order of discharge makes out a prima facie affirmative defense to the suit on the debt. Harrison v. Costello, 47 S.W.2d 871, 872 (Tex.Civ.App.-Eastland 1932, writ ref’d). The burden is then on the creditor to show that, because of the nature of the claim, failure to give notice or other statutory reason, the debt sued on was by law excepted from the operation of the discharge. Id.


4.     DURESS

    The elements of economic duress are: 

    (1)  A threat to do something that a party has no legal right to do; 
    (2)  Illegal exaction or some fraud or deception; and 
    (3)  Imminent restraint such as to destroy free agency without present means of protection. 

    King v. Bishop, 879 S.W.2d 222, 223 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1994, no writ); Simpson v. MBank Dallas, N.A., 724 S.W.2d 102, 109 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.).



    The elements of equitable estoppel are 

    (1)  A false representation or concealment of material facts, 
    (2)  Made with knowledge, actual or constructive, of those facts, 
     (3)  With the intention that it should be acted on,
    (4) To a party without knowledge or means of obtaining knowledge of the facts, 
    (5)  Who detrimentally relies on the representations. 

Johnson & Higgins of Tex., Inc. v. Kenneco Energy, Inc., 962 S.W.2d 507, 515-16 (Tex.1998).



    The defense of failure of consideration presup- poses that there was a consideration for the note in the first instance, but that it later failed. National Bank of Commerce v. Williams, 125 Tex. 619, 84 S.W.2d 691, 692 (Tex.1935). Failure of consideration happens when, because of some supervening cause after an agreement is reached, the promised performance fails. O'Shea v. Coronado Transmission Co., 656 S.W.2d 557, 563 (Tex.App.- Corpus Christi 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.).  

    Total failure of consideration for a contract constitutes a ground for rescission of the contract. Food Machinery Corp. v. Moon, 165 S.W.2d 773 (Tex.Civ.App.1942). Partial failure of consideration for a contract does not invalidate the contract but instead is a defense pro tanto. Huff v. Speer, 554 S.W.2d 259 (Tex.Civ.App. 1 Dist.1977). In Latin, pro tanto means "only to that extent."  So a partial failure of consideration is a defense only to the extent of the partial failure.



    Texas law requires a party who claims that damages must mitigate those damages if it can do so with “trifling expense or with reasonable exertions.” Great American Insurance Co. v. North Austin Municipal Utility No. 1, 908 S.W.2d 415, 426 (Tex.1995).  Mitigate means to make less severe, serious, or painful. The Oxford Concise Dictionary.

    The party that allegedly caused another party’s damages can defend against the claim for those damages by showing either that (1) the other party did mitigate its damages and the amount by which the other party mitigated or reduced its damages or (2) the other party failed to mitigate its damages and the amount by which the other party could have mitigated or reduced its damages. Austin Hill Country Realty, Inc. v. Palisades Plaza, Inc., 948 S.W.2d 293, 299 (Tex.1997).

    When the defendant contends that the plaintiff has actually mitigated damages, the defendant need not plead the plaintiff's actual mitigation as an affirmative defense. Austin Hill Country Realty, Inc. v. Palisades Plaza, Inc., 948 S.W.2d 293, 300 (Tex.1997). The defendant’s evidence of the plaintiff's mitigation tends to rebut the measure of damages under the plaintiff's cause of action and may be admitted under a general denial of the plaintiff’s cause of action by the defendant. Id. 

    When the defendant contends that the plaintiff failed to mitigate damages, evidence of such failure to mitigate is admissible only if the defendant has pled the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages as an affirmative defense. Id.

    Where a defendant proves failure to mitigate but not the amount of damages that could have been avoided, it is not entitled to any reduction in damages. Cole Chemical & Distributing, Inc. v. Gowing, 228 S.W.3d 684, 688 (Tex.App.-Houston [14 Dist.] 2005, no pet.).  


    A condition precedent is an event that must hap- pen or be performed before a party’s right can ac- crue to enforce an obligation. Centex Corp. v. Dalton, 840 S.W.2d 952, 956 (Tex.1992). Failure to satisfy a condition precedent generally results in no liability, but failure to perform a contractual obligation may create liability.  McMahan v. Greenwood, 108 S.W.3d 467, 484 (Tex.App.-  Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, pet. denied). 



    A defendant’s claim that a contract is illegal is an affirmative defense to a plaintiff’s claim on the con- tract,  and the claim of illegality must be pled by the defendant. Tex.R. Civ. P. 94; Phillips v. Phillips, 820 S.W.2d 785, 789 (Tex.1991). The illegality defense, however, need not be pleaded by the defendant if the illegal nature of the document to be relied upon or sought to be enforced is apparent from the plaintiff's pleadings” Id. Two principles support this exception. Specifically, a plaintiff’s pleading the existence of an agreement illegal on its face in effect anticipates the defendant’s defense of illegality. Id.  Courts will not enforce an illegal contract, even if the parties don't object. Id. Enforcement of an illegal contract violates public policy. Komet v. Graves, 40 S.W.3d 596, 602 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 2001, no pet.).

    Illegality as an affirmative defense is not limited to contracts prohibited by law, but also includes contracts rendered unenforceable because of some failure to comply with the law. Mabry v. Priester, 161 Tex. 173, 176, 338 S.W.2d 704, 706 (1960). 



    The elements of judicial estoppel applied by Texas courts are as follows: 

    (1)  A party made a sworn, inconsistent statement in a previous judicial proceeding; 
    (2)  The party successfully maintained the previous position; 
    (3)  The previous statement was not made inadvertently or by mistake, fraud, or duress; and 
    (4)  The statement was deliberate, clear, and unequivocal. 

    Long v. Knox, 155 Tex. 581, 291 S.W.2d 292, 295 (Tex.1956).

    It is not necessary that the party invoking this doctrine should have been a party to the former proceeding. Long v. Knox, 155 Tex. 581, 291 S.W.2d 292, 295 (Tex.1956).

    The essential function and justification of judicial estoppel is to prevent the use of intentional self- contradiction as a means of obtaining an unfair advantage. The primary purpose of the doctrine is not to protect litigants, but rather to safeguard the integrity of the judiciary. Brandon v. Interfirst Corp., 858 F.2d 266, 268 (5th Cir.1988).


11.      LACHES

    The two essential elements of laches are 

    (1)  An unreasonable delay by one having legal or equitable rights in asserting them; and 
    (2)  A good faith change of position by another to his detriment because of the delay. 

    Rogers v. Ricane Enterprises, Inc., 772 S.W.2d 76, 80 (Tex.1989).


12.     MISTAKE

    Obviously, the key to an affirmative defense of mutual or unilateral mistake is the existence of an actual mistake on the part of one or both parties to a contract.

    The elements of the affirmative defense of mutual mistake are 

    (1)  The true agreement of the parties, and 
    (2)  The contract signed by the parties incorrectly reflects their true agreement because of a mutual mistake. 

    Atlantic Lloyds Ins. Co. v. Butler, 137 S.W.3d 199, 213 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. denied).

    In general, a unilateral mistake by one party to an agreement is not a ground for relief when the mistake was not known to the other party or induced by the other party. Johnson v. Snell, 504 S.W.2d 397, 399 (Tex.1973). A person who signs a contract is presumed to know the contents of the contract. Emerald Texas, Inc. v. Peel, 920 S.W.2d 398, 402 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1996, no writ). 
    To be entitled to equitable relief as an affirmative defense on the grounds of unilateral mistake, the defendant must show that: 

    (1)  The mistake is of so great a consequence that to enforce the contract would be unconscionable;
    (2)  The mistake relates to a material feature of the contract; 
    (3)  The mistake occurred despite ordinary care; and 
    (4)  The parties can be placed in status quo, i.e., the rescission must not prejudice the other party except for the loss of the bargain.

    Ledig v. Duke Energy Corp., 193 S.W.3d 167, 175 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, no pet.). 

    A unilateral mistake by one party, combined with knowledge of that mistake by the other party, is equivalent to mutual mistake. Atlantic Lloyds Ins. Co. v. Butler, 137 S.W.3d 199, 213 (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. denied).


13.     NOVATION

    The elements of a novation are: 

    (1) A previous valid obligation; 
    (2) A mutual agreement of all parties to the acceptance of a new contract; 
    (3) The extinguishment of the old contract or obligation; and 
    (4) The validity of the new contract. 

    Talamas v. Bressi International, 727 S.W.2d 72, 74 (Tex.App.-- San Antonio 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.). 

    A novation agreement need not be in writing or evidenced by express words of agreement, and an express release is not necessary to effect a discharge of an original obligation by novation. The intent to accept the new obligation in lieu of and in discharge of the old one may be inferred from the facts and circumstances surrounding the transaction and the conduct of the parties. Bank of North America v. Bluewater Maintenance, Inc., 578 S.W.2d 841, 842 (Tex.Civ.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1979, writ ref'd n.r.e.).


    Proportionate responsibility is a legal concept for apportioning responsibility for causing claimant’s damages under a tort cause of action among parties to the incident or occurrence, whether plaintiff(s), defendant(s) or third parties.  The jury or, if no jury, the judge, determines which parties caused the claimed damages and the percentage that each party caused.  
    Under the law of proportionate responsibility, a claimant may not recover damages if its percentage of responsibility for causing the claimed damages is greater than fifty percent. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code Ann. § 33.001. 
    When sued, a defendant can claim that one or more third parties were responsible for the Plaintiff’s claimed damages, without having to add such parties to the lawsuit.  The jury can find that such third parties were responsible for a percentage of the claimed damages, even though those parties were not parties to the suit and may never have to pay a judgment to the plaintiff(s) or contribution to the defendant(s). A defendant’s claim that a party is a responsible third party or even a find- ing of fault by a jury as to that responsible third party (1) does not by itself impose liability on the person; and (2) may not be used in any other pro- ceeding, on the basis of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or any other legal theory, to impose liability. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §33.004(i)(1) and (i)(2).

    A “responsible third party” means any person, other than a plaintiff and a defendant, who is alleged to have caused or contributed to causing the harm for which recovery of damages is sought, whether by negligent act or omission, by any defective or unreasonably dangerous product, by other conduct or activity that violates an applicable legal standard, or by any combination of these. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §33.011(6).

    In order for the question to be submitted to the jury, a defendant must plead and submit legally sufficient evidence that the alleged responsible third party was at fault and caused the claimed damages.



    Quasi-estoppel is a defense that precludes a party from asserting, to another's disadvantage, a right inconsistent with a position previously taken. Lopez v. Munoz, Hockema & Reed, L.L.P., 22 S.W.3d 857, 864 (Tex.2000). The doctrine applies when it would be unconscionable to allow a person to maintain a position inconsistent with one to which he acquiesced, or from which he accepted a benefit. Id.  Misrepresentation by one party, and reliance by the other, are not necessary elements of quasi-estoppel. Vessels v. Anschutz Corp., 823 S.W.2d 762, 765 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 1992, writ denied).


    The elements of the affirmative defense of ratification are: 

    (1)  Approval by act, word, or conduct; 
    (2)  With full knowledge of the facts of the earlier act; and 
    (3)  With the intention of giving validity to the earlier act. 

    Motel Enterprises, Inc. v. Nobani, 784 S.W.2d 545, 547 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1990, no writ).


17.     RELEASE

    A release is a contract.  Therefore, elements to establish the affirmative defense of release are the same as the elements of a contract.  Vera v. N. Star Dodge Sales, Inc., 989 S.W.2d 13, 17 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 1998, no pet.) (op. on reh'g). The elements required for the formation of a valid and binding contract, including a release, are: 

    (1) An offer;
    (2) Acceptance in strict compliance with terms of the offer;
    (3) A meeting of the minds;
    (4) A communication that each party has consented to the terms of the agreement;
    (5) Execution and delivery of the contract with an intent that it become mutual and binding on both parties; and
    (6) Consideration.

    Angelou v. African Overseas Union, 33 S.W.3d 269, 278 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, no pet.).

    Under Texas law, setoff and recoupment are both counterclaims. E.E. Farrow Co. v. U.S. National Bank of Omaha, 358 S.W.2d 934, 935 (Tex.Civ.App.--Waco 1962, writ ref'd n.r.e.). 

    The right of setoff allows parties that owe each other money to apply their debts to each other. Sommers v. Concepcion, 20 S.W.3d 27, 33 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, pet. denied). Where setoff is allowed, there are mutual debts arising from different transactions. Id.
    The classic example of the right to setoff is a bank's right to apply cash in a customer's account (the bank's 'debt' to the customer) against a loan made to the customer (the customer's debt to the bank).  Bandy v. First State Bank, 835 S.W.2d 609 (Tex.1992).  The effect of the setoff was to allow a defendant in a suit for a debt to raise a debt owed by a plaintiff to the defendant as a defense or counterclaim. Bandy v. First State Bank, 835 S.W.2d 609, 618 (Tex.1992).
    Recoupment is a demand asserted to diminish or extinguish the plaintiff's demand that arises out of the same transaction forming the basis of the plaintiff's claim; setoff, on the other hand, arises out of a transaction extrinsic to the plaintiff's claim. Garza v. Allied Finance Co., 566 S.W.2d 57, 62-63 (Tex.App.--Corpus Christi 1978, no writ)
    A recoupment, when pled only to defeat a plaintiff's claim, is not barred by the statute of limitations so long as the plaintiff's main action itself is timely. The defense of recoupment may be asserted even though the same claim asserted as an independent cause of action would be barred by limitations. Garza v. Allied Finance Co., 566 S.W.2d 57, 62-63 (Tex.Civ.App. Corpus Christi 1978, no writ).


    To be enforceable, a promise or agreement must be (1) in writing and (2) signed by the person to be charged with the promise or agreement or by someone lawfully authorized, if the promise or agreement is one of the following:
    (1)  a promise by an executor or administrator to answer out of his own estate for any debt or damage due from his testator or intestate;
    (2)  a promise by one person to answer for the debt, default, or miscarriage of another person;
    (3)  an agreement made on consideration of marriage or on consideration of nonmarital conjugal cohabitation;
    (4)  a contract for the sale of real estate;                                  
    (5)  a lease of real estate for a term longer than one year;                
    (6)  an agreement which is not to be performed within one year from the date of making the agreement;
    (7)  a promise or agreement to pay a commission for the sale or purchase of:
       (A)  an oil or gas mining lease;  
       (B)  an oil or gas royalty;
       (C)  minerals;  or
       (D)  a mineral interest;  and                                   
    (8)  an agreement, promise, contract, or warranty of cure relating to medical care or results thereof made by a physician or health care provider as defined in Section 74.001, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.  This section shall not apply to pharmacists.

    Tex.Bus.&Com.Code § 26.01
   When, either because of the agreement's terms or the nature of the required acts, the agreement cannot be performed within one year, the statute of frauds applies and renders any non-complying agreement unenforceable. Niday v. Niday, 643 S.W.2d 919, 920 (Tex.1982).  Where parties enter into a contract without explicitly mentioning a time for performance, courts must determine whether the parties intended to complete the contract within a year. Hall v. Hall, 158 Tex. 95, 308 S.W.2d 12, 16 (1957). In making this determination, we frame our inquiry in terms of what is a “reasonable time” to complete performance of the contract measured in days or years “in light of the circumstances before [the parties] at the date of the contract.” Id.
    The statute of frauds does not apply when the parties do not fix the time of performance and the agreement itself does not indicate that it cannot be performed within one year. Niday v. Niday, 643 S.W.2d 919, 920 (Tex.1982).


    Each cause of action has a period within which a plaintiff must file a suit on a particular cause of action.  This is called the limitation period for the cause of action. Chapter 16, Tex. Civ. Prac.& Rem. Code, establishes the limitation period, for each cause of action of type of cause of action in Texas.  A cause of action is barred if not filed within the limitation period of the statute of limitation applicable to the particular cause of action. 

Click here for a list of limitations for the most common causes of action in Texas. 

21.     WAIVER
    Waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right or intentional conduct inconsistent with claiming that right. Jernigan v. Langley, 111 S.W.3d 153, 156 (Tex.2003). A waivable right may spring from law or from a contract. Tenneco Inc. v. Enterprise Prods. Co., 925 S.W.2d 640, 643 (Tex.1996). 

    Waiver is largely a matter of intent, and for implied waiver to be found through a party's actions, intent must be clearly demonstrated by the surrounding facts and circumstances. Motor Vehicle Board v. El Paso Independent Automobile Dealers Ass'n, Inc., 1 S.W.3d 108, 111 (Tex.1999).  Mere silence cannot establish waiver unless the inaction shows an intent to relinquish the right. Jernigan v. Langley, 111 S.W.3d 153, 157 (Tex.2003).

    There can be no waiver of a right if the person sought to be charged with waiver says or does nothing inconsistent with an intent to rely upon such right. Maryland Casualty Co. v. Palestine Fashions, Inc., 402 S.W.2d 883, 888 (Tex.1966). Waiver is ordinarily a question of fact, but when the surrounding facts and circumstances are undisputed, as in this case, the question becomes one of law. Motor Vehicle Board v.El Paso Independent Automobile Dealers Ass'n, Inc., 1 S.W.3d 108, 111 (Tex.1999).


A affirmative defense of implied assumption of the risk has been abolished. Del Lago Partners, Inc. v. Smith, 307 S.W.3d 762, 772 n. 34 (Tex.2010). However, the affirmative defense of express assumption of the risk, when a plaintiff, before undertaking risky conduct, explicitly consents to take personal responsibility for potential injury-causing risks, is still viable.  Del Lago Partners, Inc. v. Smith, 307 S.W.3d 762, 772 n. 34 (Tex.2010). Assumption of the risk remains viable in cases involving “a knowing and express oral or written consent to the dangerous activity or condition.”  Newman v. Tropical Visions, Inc., 891 S.W.2d 713, 718 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 1994, writ denied). 

The effect of the affirmative defense of express assumption of risk is to negate any duty owed the plaintiff by the defendant to protect against foreseeable risks.  Willis v. Willoughby, 202 S.W.3d 450, 453 (Tex.App.-Amarillo 2000, pet. denied).