Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment that the statute of limitations barred a claim for breach of a recorded right of first refusal to purchase a mineral interest and reinstated the judgment of the trial court rendering judgment for the rightholders, holding that the discovery rule applied to defer accrual. The grantors of the right of first refusal to purchase the mineral interest in this case conveyed the mineral interest to a third party without notifying the rightholders. More than four years later, the holders sued the third party for breach, seeking specific performance. The trial court rendered judgment for the holders. The court of appeals reversed, holding (1) the rightholders’ cause of action accrued when the grantors conveyed the property without notice, and (2) the discovery rule did not apply to defer accrual. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a grantor’s conveyance of property in breach of a right of first refusal, where the rightholder has no notice of the grantor’s intent to sell, is inherently undiscoverable and that the discovery rule applies to defer accrual of the holder’s cause of action until he knew or should have known of the injury. View "Carl M. Archer Trust No. Three v. Tregellas" on Justia Law

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In this proceeding under Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code 72.010 authorizing property owners subject to multiple taxation to petition the Supreme Court directly to determine which county is owed taxes, the Court determined that it had original jurisdiction and that taxes on Relators’ property were owed to San Patricio County rather than Nueces County. This dispute concerned shoreline boundary on Corpus Christi Bay. For a decade both Nueces County and San Patricio County have taxed the same piers, docks, and other facilities affixed to land in San Patricio County but extending out into the water in Nueces County. After the statute was enacted and signed into law in 2017, Relators filed an original petition for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court praying that the Court determine which county is authorized to tax Relators' piers. The Supreme Court held (1) this case presented a compelling reason for the Court to exercise original jurisdiction; (2) section 72.010 does not violate the Texas Constitution’s prohibition against retroactive laws; and (3) San Patricio County is owed the taxes due on Relators' piers. View "In re Occidental Chemical Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of settlement credits in this case, holding that the trial court erred in failing to apply the one-satisfaction rule and therefore erred in denying the nonsettling defendant the settlement credits they sought. Plaintiff sued Defendants alleging, inter alia, breach of loan note and guaranty agreements, fraud, and conspiracy. The jury awarded Plaintiff damages of $2,665,832 and attorney’s fees. In response to Plaintiff’s motion for judgment, Defendants asserted that under the one-satisfaction rule, they were entitled to offset the final judgment by the amounts the four settling defendants paid to Plaintiff. However, the trial court rendered judgment against Defendants for the full jury award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants were entitled to reduce the judgment by the total amount of the four settlements Plaintiff received and any applicable interest. View "Sky View at Las Palmas, LLC v. Mendez" on Justia Law

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In this property-tax dispute regarding ownership of tangible personal property the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals determining that Willacy County Appraisal District (WCAD) lacked authority to change the ownership determination to the appraisal roll under Tex. Prop. Tax Code 25.25(b), holding that when, as in this case, an ownership correction to the appraisal roll does not increase the amount of property taxes owed for subject property in the year of correction, an appraisal district’s chief appraiser has statutory authority to make such a correction. WCAD initially listed on the 2009 appraisal roll Sebastian Cotton & Grain Ltd. as the owner of grain inventory stored on its property. WCAD subsequently corrected the appraisal roll to reflect DeBruce Grain as the property owner but ultimately changed the 2009 appraisal roll back to again reflecting Sebastian as the grain’s owner. Sebastian protested. The Supreme Court held (1) the ownership correction was proper; (2) a Tex. Prop. Tax Code 1.111(e) agreement may be rendered voidable if its is proven that the agreement was induced by fraud; and (3) Sebastian was not entitled to attorney’s fees under Tex. Prop. Tax Code 42.29. View "Willacy County Appraisal District v. Sebastian Cotton & Grain, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the royalty interest reserved to the grantor in a 1951 deed was fixed - or set at a specific percentage of production - rather than floating - dependent on the royalty amount in the applicable oil and gas lease. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The trial court declared that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the royalty interest was fixed. The Supreme Court reversed in light of the language and structure of the reservation at issue, holding that the deed unambiguously reserved a floating one-half interest in the royalty in all oil, gas, or other minerals produced from the conveyed property. View "U.S. Shale Energy II, LLC v. Laborde Properties, L.P." on Justia Law

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The common law rule against perpetuities does not invalidate a grantee’s future interest in the grantor’s reserved non-participating royalty interest (NPRI). Lorene Koopmann and her two children sought declaratory judgment against Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, L.P. and Lois Strieber to construe a warranty deed by which Strieber conveyed fee simple title to a tract of land to Lorene and her late husband. Under the deed, Strieber reserved a fifteen-year, one-half NPRI. The Koopmans claimed that they were the sole owners of an NPRI as of December 27, 2011. They also asserted claims against Burlington, which leased the tract from the Koopmanns, for breach of contract and other claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Koopmans as to the declaratory action and granted summary judgment for Burlington on the negligence and negligence per se claims. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court held (1) the rule against perpetuities does not invalidate the Koopmann’s future interest in the NPRI; (2) Tex. Nat. Res. Code 91.402 does not preclude a lessor’s common law claim for breach of contract; and (3) the court of appeals properly entered judgment as to attorney’s fees pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. View "ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann" on Justia Law

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In this appeal of a condemnation judgment the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals holding the trial court’s evidentiary rulings were an abuse of discretion and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. The State planned to condemn a portion of a 33,000 square-foot property owned by Stephen and Kimberly Morale in the Town of Little Elm. The special commissioners awarded the Morales $49,804 in damages for the taking. The Morales objected to the award and demanded a jury trial. The jury awarded $1,064,335 to the Morales, and the trial court essentially rendered judgment on the verdict. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court erroneously admitted and excluded various evidence at trial, thereby probably resulting in the rendition of an improper judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court’s challenged evidentiary rulings were not an abuse of discretion. View "Morale v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed with prejudice a land developer’s claim against a county commissioner in his official capacity, holding that the developer did not have standing to pursue its claim for injunctive relief against the county commissioner. In its complaint, the developer sought mandamus relief requiring the county engineer to submit the developer’s completed plat application to the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court for approval. At issue in this appeal was the injunctive relief the developer sought against the commissioner, alleging that the commissioner inappropriately instructed the county engineering department to delay processing the submitted plat and construction plans. The commissioner filed a plea to the jurisdiction claiming that the developer’s suit against him in his official capacity was barred by governmental immunity. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because an individual county commissioner in Fort Bend County lacks legal authority to receive, process, or present a completed plat application to that county’s commissioners court for approval, the developer failed to show a substantial likelihood that the injunction it sought will remedy its alleged injury. View "Meyers v. JDC/Firethorne, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Robin Goldsmith, a Louisiana resident, did not purposefully avail herself of the state of Texas such that Texas courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over her as to Old Republic National Title Insurance’s Company’s claim under the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act. This dispute arose from a series of money transfers between Lisa Bell, a Texas resident, and Goldsmith in connection with the sale of Texas Property. Alleging that the transfers were fraudulent, Old Republic sued Bell and Goldsmith. In response to Old Republic’s suit, Goldsmith filed a special appearance objecting to the court’s jurisdiction over her. The trial court granted Goldsmith’s special appearance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Goldsmith’s contacts with the state of Texas were insufficient to confer specific or general jurisdiction over her with respect to Old Republic’s fraudulent transfer claim. View "Old Republic National Title Insurance Co. v. Bell" on Justia Law

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The Parker County Appraisal District did not employ a facially unlawful means of appraising Taxpayers’ property, which appeared to derive much of its market value from saltwater disposal wells in which wastewater from oil and gas operations could be injected and permanently stored underground. When valuing for tax purposes Taxpayers’ tracts of land in Parker County, the Parker County Appraisal District assigned one appraised value to the wells and another appraised value to the land itself. Taxpayers argued before the trial court that the Tax Code did not permit the County to appraise the wells separately from the land itself where both interests are owned by the same person and have not been severed into discrete estates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Taxpayers. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was nothing improper in the District’s decision to separately assigned and appraise the surface and the disposal wells, which were part of Taxpayers’ real property and contributed to its value; and (2) the Tax Code does not prohibit the use of different appraisal methods for different components of a property. View "Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC v. Parker County Appraisal District" on Justia Law