Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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In this eminent domain case brought in a county court at law the Supreme Court held that the county court correctly concluded that counterclaims challenging the authority to condemn and seek damages in excess of the amount-in-controversy cap on the court's additional jurisdiction do not require a transfer to the district court.Plaintiff sued Defendant in the Walker County Court at Law to condemn a pipeline easement across Defendant's property. Defendant filed counterclaims and sought to transfer them to the district court, arguing that they exceeded the county court's jurisdictional limit. The county court at law denied Defendant's motion to transfer. Defendant filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, which the court of appeals granted. The Supreme Court conditionally granted Plaintiff's petition for a writ of mandamus and ordered the appeals court to vacate its conditional writ, holding that Defendant's counterclaims could be fully adjudicated by the county court at law, which retained jurisdiction over the entire case. View "In re Breviloba, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the ruling of the trial court that two private entities behind a high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas did not qualify as either railroad companies or interurban electric railway companies entitled to eminent-domain authority, holding that the entities had eminent-domain power as interurban electric railway companies.The owner of real property located along the proposed railway route sought a declaratory judgment that the two private entities lacked eminent-domain authority. The trial court granted summary judgment for the landowner. The court of appeals reversed, determining that the entities had eminent-domain power as both railroad companies and interurban electric railway companies. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the private entities had eminent-domain authority under Chapter 131 of the Texas Transportation Code. View "Miles v. Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, absent a clear abuse of discretion, governmental immunity protects a zoning commission's determination that a proposed subdivision conforms with applicable law.After the City of Georgetown's Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary plat for a new 89-home subdivision neighboring Escalera Ranch, a subdivision to the north the Escalera Ranch Owners' Association sued the Commission members, asserting that their approval of the plat was a clear abuse of discretion. The trial court granted the Commissioners' plea to the jurisdiction, concluding that the Association lacked standing to sue. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commissioners adhered to their duty in determining that the preliminary plat conformed to the applicable standards. View "Schroeder v. Escalera Ranch Owners' Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this eminent domain dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the trial court's judgment in favor of a pipeline company, holding that remand was required for a new trial to determine the market value of the property taken.A landowner challenged the pipeline company's right to condemn, arguing that the transport of polymer-grade propylene did not the pipeline company common-carrier status. After excluding the landowner's evidence of sales of other pipeline easements the trial court found in favor of the pipeline company. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that whether the pipeline served a public use presented a fact question for a jury to resolve and that the trial court erred in excluding the landowner's testimony about easement sales. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Tex. Bus. Org. Code 2.105 grants common-carrier eminent domain authority for the construction and use of a polymer-grade propylene pipeline; (2) the company demonstrated that its pipeline served a public use, and that determination is a legal one; and (3) a property owner may testify to sales of pipeline easements across the property made to other pipeline carriers. View "Hlavinka v. HSC Pipeline Partnership, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) general jurisdiction over water and water rights, including the issuance of water rights permits and water rights adjudication, does not include the authority to adjudicate conflicting claims to ownership of surface-water rights.Plaintiff brought this complaint seeking declarations that it was the sole owner of certain surface-water rights. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that TCEQ has exclusive original jurisdiction to determine water-ownership rights. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that TCEQ lacks jurisdiction to decide conflicting claims of ownership to surface-water rights and that the adjudication of such claims is for the courts. View "Pape Partners, Ltd. v. DRR Family Properties LP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the current owners of certain property, holding that Elizabeth Mitchell's due process rights were violated in a 1999 suit in which the court entered a default judgment foreclosing a tax lien on Elizabeth's interest.After Elizabeth died in 2009, her heirs (Petitioners) brought suit to declare void the 1999 default judgment, alleging the judgment violated Elizabeth's constitutional right to procedural due process because Elizabeth was not properly served with notice of the underlying foreclosure suit. Respondents, the current owners of the property who purchased it at a tax sale or later acquired an interest in it, argued that the publicly recorded warranty deeds and county tax records could not be considered in this collateral attack. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for Respondents. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) information available in relevant public records can be considered in a collateral attack on a judgment that alleges constitutional due process violations; and (2) Petitioners established that Elizabeth was not properly served in the 1999 suit, and therefore, the court in the tax foreclosure suit did not acquire personal jurisdiction over Elizabeth. View "Mitchell v. MAP Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over a family ranch the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing in part the district court's rejection of Plaintiffs' claims on summary judgment, holding that Kenneth Berry's claims were properly rejected by the district court but that Chelsea Berry's claims should have been allowed to proceed.Kenneth and his daughter Chelsea filed this suit alleging that Defendants did not pay for the use of the ranch and that a lease between the parties was impermissibly long. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants on all claims. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of Chelsea's claims and some of Kenneth's claims but reversed as to Kenneth on a statute of limitations issue. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) properly disposed of all of Kenneth's claims; but (2) erred in dismissing Chelsea's claims. View "Berry v. Berry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court against Landlord and in favor of the City of Baytown in this dispute over unpaid utility bills, holding that Landlord's challenge to the City's enforcement action failed to show the intentional taking or damage for public use necessary to establish a constitutional right to compensation.In this action, Landlord alleging that the City's withholding of utility service to collect payment resulted in the loss of a tenant and the disrepair of his property and was a taking in violation of the state or federal constitution. The trial court concluded that Landlord did not establish an intentional taking of private property for public use. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City's utility enforcement actions did not establish a regulatory taking of private property as a matter of law. View "City of Baytown v. Schrock" on Justia Law

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In this oil and gas case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's summary judgment, holding that a fact issue remained on Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the lease and that Plaintiffs' argument was not barred by res judicata but that the court of appeals erred by reversing a take-nothing summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' tort and statutory claims.At issue was the meaning and application of an express covenant to protect against drainage that appeared in a lease addendum that expressly limited the location of wells that may trigger Defendant-Lessee's obligation to protect against drainage but did not directly address the location of wells that may cause drainage. Plaintiffs-Lessors argued that the covenant allowed for separate triggering and draining wells and that Defendant breached the covenant by failing to protect against drainage from a non-triggering well. In response, Defendant argued that it had a duty to protect only against drainage from the limited class of triggering wells. The Supreme Court held (1) the addendum was ambiguous because both interpretations of the covenant were reasonable; (2) the court of appeals improperly reversed the trial court's take-nothing summary judgment on Plaintiffs' tort and statutory claims; and (3) remand was required for further proceedings on Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the lease. View "Rosetta Resources Operating, LP v. Martin" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between a homeowners' association and a townhome owner the Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court enjoining the owner from renting its townhomes for terms of fewer than seven days, holding that the association had no authority to impose a short-term rental restriction.After the association demanded that the owner stop leasing its townhomes for short-term rentals the owner sued to enforce a covenant in the neighborhood's deed restrictions granting it the right to lease without restriction. The trial court ruled that the short-term rentals breached a provision in the neighborhood's deed restrictions. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the association possessed independent authority under Tex. Prop. Code 204.010(a)(6) to restrict short-term rentals. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither the deed covenants nor the Property Code authorized the association to impose a short-term rental restriction. View "JBrice Holdings, LLC v. Wilcrest Walk Townhomes Ass'n" on Justia Law