Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals divesting the Petitioners of an interest in property they inherited from their mother, holding that the estoppel by deed doctrine did not apply in this case and that Petitioners were entitled to retain the interest. At issue was whether the estoppel by deed doctrine or the Court's opinion in Duhig v. Peavy-Moore Lumber Co., 144 S.W.2d 878 (Tex. 1940), applied to prevent Petitioners from asserting title to the interest they inherited from their mother when Petitioners' father previously purported to sell that interest to Respondents. The trial court ruled in favor of Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed and rendered judgment for Respondents based on estoppel by deed and the Court's decision in Duhig. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Petitioners claimed their interest from their mother, an independent source predating the deed at issue, neither estoppel by deed nor the decision in Duhig applied to divest Petitioners of that interest. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether damages were appropriate for Respondents' breach of warranty claim. View "Trial v. Dragon" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court awarding specific performance to Pathfinder Oil & Gas, Inc., which claimed a twenty-five percent working interest in certain mineral leases under a letter agreement that Great Western Drilling Ltd. claimed was unenforceable, holding that Pathfinder was entitled to specific performance. On the day before trial, the parties stipules that only certain issues would be submitted to the jury and that favorable jury findings would entitle Pathfinder to specific performance instead of money damages. The jury charge included only the specifically enumerated jury issues, and the jury answered those issues in favor of Pathfinder. The trial court awarded specific performance as provided by the parties' agreement. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment, holding that specific performance was unavailable without a jury finding that Pathfinder was "ready, willing, and able" to perform its obligations under the contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, through the stipulation, Great Western waived the right to insist on any other fact findings that might otherwise have been required to entitle Pathfinder to specific performance. View "Pathfinder Oil & Gas, Inc. v. Great Western Drilling, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Rowlett on KMS Retail Rowlett, LP's complaint alleging that the City's exercise of its eminent domain authority to take KMS's private road easement and convert it to a public road connecting several commercial retail and restaurant sites, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. Specifically, the Court held that the court of appeals did not err in concluding that (1) chapter 2206 of the Government Code, which prohibits takings for economic development purposes, did not apply to the taking in this case; (2) the City's condemnation was necessary for a constitutional public use; and (3) KMS failed to raise a fact issue as to whether the taking was fraudulent, in bad faith, or arbitrary and capricious. View "KMS Retail Rowlett, LP v. City of Rowlett" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals finding that Petitioner waived the argument that his contractual waiver of the statute of limitations was void as against public policy, holding that the court of appeals erred in declining to reach Petitioner's argument but that, when the enforceable portions of Petitioner's contractual waiver were applied, limitations did not bar Respondent's suit against Petitioner. Petitioner guaranteed a loan secured by real property. When the borrower defaulted, Respondent Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s successor foreclosed on the real property securing the loan. After purchasing property at a foreclosure sale Respondent sued Petitioner to recover the deficiency. Petitioner moved for summary judgment, arguing that Respondent's claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations for deficiency claims. Respondent moved for partial summary judgment on the grounds that Petitioner waived Tex. Prop. Code 51.003's statute of limitations when he signed the guaranty agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondent. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner waived his public policy argument. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner contractually waived the two-year statute of limitations and that a four-year statute of limitations applied to Respondent's claims; and (2) because Respondent sued Petitioner within that four-year period, limitations did not bar the suit. View "Godoy v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality does not have the discretion to deny an ad valorem tax exemption for heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs), devices the Legislature considers "pollution control property," holding that the Legislature did not exceed its constitutional authority in exempting pollution control property from taxation. Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. filed for an exemption seeking a positive use determination for the HRSG used in two of its facilities. The Commission's Executive Director issued negative use determinations for the applications on the grounds that HRSGs are not eligible for a positive use determination. The Commission eventually affirmed the determinations as to both facilities. The trial court affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under Texas Tax Code 11.31, property that qualifies as pollution control property, is entitled to a tax exemption, and HRSGs qualify, at least in part, as pollution control property; and (2) thus, assuming the applicant otherwise complies with the statute's requirements, the Executive Director may not issue a negative use determination for HRSGs. View "Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. v. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court concluding that an owner who tendered substantially all of the money required by Tex. Tax Code 34.21 could redeem real property purchased at a tax sale after the purchaser's deed was recorded, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the owner substantially complied with the requirements of section 34.21(e). The owner of the property in this case was the Estate of Benjamin Hardy Carlton, III. The property was sold at a sheriff's sale to enforce a judgment obtained from several taxing authorities. Plaintiff successfully bid for it, and Plaintiff then recorded his deed. Before its deadline to redeem the home the Estate paid eighty-eight percent of the total due. The Estate then sued Plaintiff seeking a declaration of redemption. The trial court concluded that the estate had effectively exercised the right of redemption by making substantial compliance and tendering full compensation within the redemption period. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the Estate's tender satisfied the statute. View "Sorrell v. Estate of Carlton" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claim against the State brought after a cargo van owned by the State rolled backwards into a grounded helicopter owned by Plaintiff, holding that portions of the claim should have been allowed to proceed. The van in this case was owned by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, an agency of the State. Plaintiff sued the Department, alleging that the Department breached its duty to act with ordinary care in maintaining and operating the van. The Department filed a combined plea to the jurisdiction and motion for summary judgment. The trial court denied the plea and motion. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment, concluding that sovereign immunity protected the Department from Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in rejecting Plaintiff's claims related to a Department employee's allegedly negligent failure to apply the parking brake so the van would not roll away. View "PHI, Inc. v. Texas Juvenile Justice Department" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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