Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this trespass-to-try-title suit between the lessees of adjacent mineral estates, holding that the court of appeals erred.In its complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants drilled wells either on Plaintiff's leasehold or closer to the lease line than allowed by Railroad Commission rules. Defendants argued in response that Plaintiff ratified an agreed boundary line, foreclosing Plaintiff's trespass claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a boundary stipulation between the fee owners of the two mineral estates, which Plaintiff accepted, was void and could not be ratified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the boundary stipulation was valid and that Defendants conclusively established their ratification defense. View "Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of mandamus sought by Texas-New Mexico Power Co. (TNM) in this negligence action, holding that Plaintiffs' claim was not one within the Public Utility Commission's (PUC) exclusive original jurisdiction because it was not about TNM's operations and services as a utility.Plaintiffs, a larger number of homeowners near the Junemann Bayou and Las Marque, sued TNM, their electric utility, for damages due to flooding during Hurricane Harvey, alleging that TNM was negligent in not requiring its contractor to secure wooden mats to the ground during a construction project. The trial court denied TNM's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and TNM petitioned for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the PUC's exclusive original jurisdiction did not extend to the issues underlying this tort claim. View "In re Texas-New Mexico Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court concluding that service on WWLC Investment, LP by Sorab Miraki was not defective, holding that WWLC met its burden to prove lack of proper service.After WWLC had Miraki evicted, Miraki sued for breach of lease, fraud, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code ch. 17. Miraki accomplished substituted service by attaching a copy of the petition and citation to the front door of the home of an WWLC employee. When WWLC did not answer, Miraki took a default judgment against it. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that service on WWLC was not defective. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that WWLC demonstrated that it was not properly served. View "WWLC Investment, LP v. Miraki" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that "a governmental unit's copyright infringement is not a taking" and that, therefore, the trial court erred in denying a plea to the jurisdiction, holding that the violation of a copyright, without more, is not a taking of the copyright.Plaintiff, a professional photographer, sued the University of Houston, alleging that the University's publication of his photograph was an unlawful taking. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting immunity under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. After the trial court denied the plea, the University brought this interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals vacated the trial court's order denying the plea and dismissed the cause for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that a governmental unit's copyright infringement is not a taking. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) factual allegations of an infringement do not alone allege a taking; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in sustaining the jurisdictional plea and dismissing the case because the State retained its immunity in the absence of a properly pled takings claim. View "Jim Olive Photography v. University of Houston System" on Justia Law

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In this quiet title action, the Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that Defendant did not conclusively negate unsound-mind tolling pleaded as an exception to limitations.Plaintiff, a person who alleged a mental incapacity, sought to prevent Defendant, his aunt, from evicting him from property he had inherited, arguing that a deed to Defendant that he had signed years earlier was void due to his lack of capacity. Defendant moved for traditional summary judgment based on the statute of limitations. In response, Plaintiff invoked the unsound-mind tolling statute. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Defendant moved for traditional summary judgment on limitations and Plaintiff raised the unsound-mind tolling statute, Defendant had the burden to conclusively negate Plaintiff's assertion of mental capacity; (2) because Defendant offered no evidence regarding Plaintiff's soundness of mind, she failed to carry her burden; and (3) therefore, the court of appeals erred in affirming the trial court's order granting Defendant summary judgment. View "Draughon v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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In this tax exemption case concerning privately owned real property in Galveston County the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Galveston Central Appraisal District, holding that Odyssey 2020 Academy was not entitled to an exemption from the ad valorem tax.The property at issue was subleased by Odyssey, which used the property to operate a public charter school. Odyssey contractually agreed to pay the property owners' ad valorem taxes and requested that the Galveston Central Appraisal District exempt the property from taxation as "property owned by this state" under section 11.11(a) of the Tax Code. The District denied the exemption request. On review, the district court granted summary judgment for the District. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, on these facts, the Constitution does not merit an exemption for Odyssey. View "Odyssey 2020 Academy, Inc. v. Galveston Central Appraisal District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that Tex. R. App. P. 26.1 did not apply to an inventor's motion for a new trial when the trial court struck the intervenor's petition before it rendered the final judgment, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the court of appeals, Rule 26.1 does apply.A condominium owner and his homeowners' association and property manager settled the owner's claims asserting that Defendants wrongfully foreclosed their lien against the owner's condominium. In light of the settlement, the trial court struck the intervention petition of the owner's accounting firm (firm) and rendered final judgment. Thereafter, the firm filed a motion for new trial and a notice of appeal. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction, concluding that the firm did not qualify as a "party" whose new trial motion could extend the appellate deadline. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the firm was a party to the judgment, and therefore, its timely filing of the new trial motion extended the deadline for filing a notice of appeal; and (2) the firm timely filed its notice of appeal. View "Eichner v. Dominguez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that a validly executed correction instrument under Tex. Prop. Code 5.029 must be signed by the property's current owners, holding that the court of appeals incorrect interpreted the "if applicable" clause in the statute.To be effective, the instrument correcting a material error in a recorded original instrument of conveyance by agreement must be executed by each party to the original instrument or, "if applicable, a party's heirs, successors, or assigns." See section 5.029(b)(1). At issue as when are a party's heirs, successors or assigns are applicable such that their agreement is necessary to make such a correction. The court of appeals concluded that the original parties could not correct their mistake in the original instrument of conveyance solely by their agreement after an assignment and, rather, a validly executed correction instrument under section 5.029 must be signed by the property's current owners. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the original parties to a recorded original instrument of conveyance may validly execute a correction instrument under section 5.029, even after a third party has acquired an interest in the original transaction; and (2) the statute does not require that an original party's "heirs, successors, or assigns" sign a correction agreement when the original parties all execute the correction. View "Broadway National Bank v. Yates Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the orders of the trial courts in these three cases brought by downstream property owners asserting that the San Jacinto River Authority's release of water from its Lake Conroe reservoir into the San Jacinto River caused or contributed to the flooding of their properties, holding that the trial court did not err by denying the River Authority's motions to dismiss the three suits.Plaintiffs asserted both common-law inverse condemnation claims under Tex. Const. art. I, 17 and statutory takings claims under Chapter 2007 of the Government Code. The River Authority moved to dismiss the three suits, arguing that Chapter 2007 applied strictly to regulatory takings and not physical takings, as Plaintiffs contended. The trial court denied the motions to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Chapter 2007's statutory takings claim included the physical takings claim alleged in the property owners' pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statutory takings claim may include a physical taking and is not limited solely to regulatory takings. View "San Jacinto River Authority v. Argento" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this trespass to try title suit, holding that the trial court properly granted summary judgment for Defendants.Plaintiff and Defendants were lessees of adjacent mineral estates. Plaintiff brought this suit alleging that Defendants drilled several wells either on Plaintiff's leasehold or closer to the lease line that allowed by Railroad Commission rules. Defendants claimed that Plaintiff ratified the boundary line through a boundary stipulation between the fee owners of the two mineral estates and Plaintiff's written acceptance of the stipulation, thus foreclosing the trespass claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the boundary stipulation was void and therefore could not be ratified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the boundary stipulation was valid; and (2) Defendants conclusively established their ratification defense. View "Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison" on Justia Law