Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Sky View at Las Palmas, LLC v. Mendez
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
Willacy County Appraisal District v. Sebastian Cotton & Grain, Ltd.
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
U.S. Shale Energy II, LLC v. Laborde Properties, L.P.
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
ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann
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
Morale v. State
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
Meyers v. JDC/Firethorne, Ltd.
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
Old Republic National Title Insurance Co. v. Bell
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
Posted in: Real Estate & Property Law
Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC v. Parker County Appraisal District
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
Posted in: Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law, Real Estate & Property Law, Tax Law
Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Ass’n, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s decision that a homeowner violated certain restrictive covenants that limit tracts to residential purposes and single-family residents by operating a business on a residential tract and engaging in multi-family, short-term vacation rentals. The court of appeals concluded that the rental agreements contracted the residential-purpose limitation because the renters’ stays were merely temporary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the unambiguous restrictive covenants did not restrict the homeowner from renting his single-family residence to occupants to use his home for a “residential purpose,” no matter how short-lived; and (2) therefore, the homeowner did not violate the restrictive covenants by entering into short-term vacation rental agreements. View "Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Ass’n, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Real Estate & Property Law
TRO-X, L.P. v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s ruling that TRO-X, LP was entitled to a back-in percentage of the working interest in five mineral leases under which Anadarko Petroleum was lessee. TRO-X sued Anadarko, asserting claims for breach of contract and trespass to try title and seeking a declaratory judgment that the leases were top leases and therefore subject to TRO-X’s back-in interest. The trial court concluded that the leases were top leases, in which TRO-X retained a back-in interest, rather than new leases, which washed out TRO-X’s interest. In reversing, the court of appeals concluded that the leases were not top leases. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the leases at issue were not top leases subject to TRO-X’s back-in interest. View "TRO-X, L.P. v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law