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In construing an unambiguous deed, the parties’ intent is paramount, and that intent is determined by conducting a careful and detailed examination of a deed in its entirety rather than applying some default rule that appears nowhere in the deed’s text. In this case, the Supreme Court construed a deed that conveyed a mineral estate and the surface above it. At issue was whether the language of the deed passed the entire burden of an outstanding non-participating royalty interest (NPRI) to the grantees or whether the NPRI proportionately burdened the grantor’s reserved interest. The trial court ruled that the deed burdened both parties with an outstanding NPRI and that the parties must share the burden of the NPRI in proportion to their respective fractional mineral interests. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the only reasonable reading of the deed in this case resulted in the parties bearing the NPRI burden in shares proportionate to their fractional interests in the minerals. View "Wenske v. Ealy" on Justia Law

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In this dispute involving mineral interests pooled for natural gas production, lessors and other stakeholders alleged that the lessee underpaid royalties owed to them under their mineral leases and pooling agreements. The issues presented in this appeal centered on the lessee’s efforts to avoid a contractual obligation to pay royalties to the overlapping unit stakeholders for production from a zone shared by the two pooled units. The lower courts held that the agreement to pay royalties was enforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) ineffective conveyance of title does not preclude the lessee’s liability under a contract theory; (2) the lessee’s quasi-estoppel and scrivener’s error defenses to contract enforcement failed as a matter of law; and (3) the lessee was not entitled to recoup royalty payments from stakeholders in another pooled unit; (4) this court’s decision in Hooks v. Samson Lone Star, Ltd. Partnership, 457 S.W. 3d 52 (Tex. 2015) precluded the unpooling stakeholders’ claims; and (5) the court of appeals properly construed a proportionate-reduction clause to award royalties owed to the overlapping unit stakeholders in accordance with their fifty percent mineral-interest ownership. View "Samson Exploration, LLC v. T.S. Reed Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

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The employer under the circumstances of this case had no duty to control its employees. J.R.and Carlos worked as cashiers at a convenience store owned by Exxon Mobile Corporation. One evening, Carlos picked a fistfight with J.R. When Alfredo, J.R.’s father, entered to the store to pick up J.R., Carlos also started a fistfight with Alfredo. Alfredo was knocked down and complained he couldn’t breathe. Twenty-three days later he died from cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory failure, and renal failure. J.R. and his family (Plaintiffs) sued Exxon for wrongful death and survival damages. The jury found that Exxon’s negligent supervision of its employees, together with J.R. and Alfredo’s negligence, caused Alfredo’s death. The jury awarded Plaintiffs nearly $2 million in damages. The court of appeals remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment for Exxon, holding that an employer in a situation like the one presented in this case owes no duty to supervise its employees, and therefore, as a matter of law, Exxon was not liable to Plaintiffs. View "Pagayon v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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ConocoPhillips Co. and Alma Energy Corp. exchanged oil and gas interests under an exchange agreement in which each indemnified the other for any environmental claims related to the properties received. Alma later filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Thereafter, Noble Energy Inc. agreed to by the properties Alma had received from Conoco under the exchange agreement. After the bankruptcy proceeding concluded, an environmental contamination suit was filed against Conoco, and Noble refused to indemnify Conoco under the exchange agreement. Conoco filed suit against Noble alleging breach of the exchange agreement and seeking to recover the $63 million it paid to settle the suit. The trial court granted summary judgment for Noble. The court of appeals reversed and entered summary judgment for Conoco, concluding that the exchange agreement was an executory contract that was assumed by Alma and assigned to Noble in the bankruptcy proceeding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that under the terms of the bankruptcy court order confirming the plan of reorganization and the agreement for sale of Alma’s assets, Noble was assigned an undisclosed contractual indemnity obligation of Alma. View "Noble Energy, Inc. v. Conocophillips Co." on Justia Law

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In this admiralty law case, a certain vessel - taken out of service, subjected to a twenty-month conversion process, and unable to engage in transportation during the entirety of the claimant’s onboard employment - was “out of navigation” as a matter of law and thus outside the Jones Act. Kelvin Gold, an employee of Helix Energy Solutions Group, reported injuries suffered aboard the HELIX 534 and sued Helix for additional maintenance-and-cure benefits, as well as actual and punitive damages. Gold claimed those remedies under the Jones Act as a “seaman” aboard a “vessel in navigation.” During the entire time Gold worked aboard the 534 the ship lacked the ability to navigate on her own due to the overhaul of her engines. The trial court granted summary judgment for Helix, concluding that the 534 was not a vessel in navigation under undergoing the overhaul. The court of appeals reversed, finding a fact question. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment, holding as a matter of law that the 534 was not in navigation and therefore that the Jones Act did not apply during the course of Gold’s employment. View "Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Gold" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law

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The dispute arose from a contingency fee agreement (agreement) for legal services. Attorneys filed suit against Client seeking a judgment that would include an ownership interest in a business partially formed by Client as compensation for unpaid attorney fees. A jury found that Attorneys were not entitled to an ownership interest under the terms of the agreement. The trial court granted Attorneys’ motion for a new trial, concluding that the agreement unambiguously provided for the recovery of an ownership interest as attorney fees. The Supreme Court conditionally granted Client’s petition for writ of mandamus, directing the trial court to vacate its new trial orders and render a final judgment consistent with this opinion, holding that the agreement unambiguously did not permit Attorneys to recovery from the ownership interest in the business. View "In re Dean Davenport" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Tex. Prop. Code 12.0071, the lis pendens expunction statute, does not legally eradicate coextensive information that may be obtained independently of the information contained in the notice of underlying litigation. Two companies (collectively, Defendants) each bought real property involved in a title dispute. Notices of lis pendens were filed on the pieces of property involved in the suit. The trial court subsequently expunged the notices of lis penden. Claiming bona-fide-purchaser status, Defendants each filed summary judgment motions, claiming that they lawfully relied on the trial court’s expungement order, which voided any notice derived from the lis pendens. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that section 12.0071 extinguished actual and constructive notice of the title dispute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the unresolved fact issue of whether Defendants had actual, independent knowledge of the issues covered by the lis pendens notice precluded summary judgment; and (2) Defendants have not established bona fide purchaser status simply by relying on the expungement order. View "Sommers v. Sandcastle Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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This action stemmed from a “without cause” termination of Plaintiff’s five-year employment contract at the end of his third contract year. Plaintiff brought claims against his former employer, its chief executive officer, and its professional services company for, inter alia, breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the claims for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendants, holding (1) the employer was entitled to summary judgment on the breach of contract claim where the employer was not required to prove the reasons it terminated Plaintiff’s employment contract “without cause” an the relevant provisions of the contract were not ambiguous; (2) Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the tortious interference claim where Plaintiff presented no evidence of willful or intentional interference; and (3) the employer’s professional services company was entitled to Plaintiff’s tortious interference claim where it conclusively established its justification defense to the claim. View "Community Health Systems Professional Services Corp. v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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Homeowners sued Builder for failing to construct their home in a good and workmanlike manner. Builder’s commercial general liability insurer (Insurer) refused to defend Builder in the suit. Judgment was granted in favor of Homeowners after a trial, and Builder assigned the majority of its claims against Insurer to Homeowners. Homeowners subsequently sought to recover the judgment from Insurer under the applicable policy. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Homeowners. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and, in the interests of justice, remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, holding (1) the judgment against Builder was not binding on Insurer in this suit because it was not the product of a fully adversarial proceeding; but (2) this insurance litigation may serve to determine Insurer’s liability, although the parties in the case focused on other issues during the trial. View "Great American Insurance Co. v. Hamel" on Justia Law