Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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Tex. Prop. Code 12.0071, the lis pendens expunction statute, does not legally eradicate coextensive information that may be obtained independently of the information contained in the notice of underlying litigation. Two companies (collectively, Defendants) each bought real property involved in a title dispute. Notices of lis pendens were filed on the pieces of property involved in the suit. The trial court subsequently expunged the notices of lis penden. Claiming bona-fide-purchaser status, Defendants each filed summary judgment motions, claiming that they lawfully relied on the trial court’s expungement order, which voided any notice derived from the lis pendens. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that section 12.0071 extinguished actual and constructive notice of the title dispute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the unresolved fact issue of whether Defendants had actual, independent knowledge of the issues covered by the lis pendens notice precluded summary judgment; and (2) Defendants have not established bona fide purchaser status simply by relying on the expungement order. View "Sommers v. Sandcastle Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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In dispute in this case were 1991 deeds purporting to pass title of all the grantors’ mineral interests in Harrison County to Petitioners. In 2011, the grantors deed to Respondent the same interests they had conveyed to Petitioners. Respondent then sued Petitioners to quiet title to mineral interests, asserting that the property descriptions and general granting clause in the 1991 deeds were insufficient to satisfy the Statue of Frauds because the property conveyed was not identified with reasonable certainty. The trial court granted summary judgment for Petitioners on the title issue and rendered a take-nothing judgment against Respondent. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the general granting clause was ambiguous. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment that Respondent take nothing, holding that the general grants in the 1991 deeds were valid and unambiguous, conveying title of the grantors’ Harrison County mineral interests to Petitioners. View "Davis v. Mueller" on Justia Law

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While the Supreme Court was asked in this case to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a viable cause of action in Texas, the court was not persuaded to consider it because Petitioners and cross-respondents, the Kinsels, had an adequate remedy in this case. In this case involving the sale of a ranch, the Kinsels sought damages for tortious interference with their inheritances, statutory and common-law fraud, and conspiracy. The jury found for the Kinsels on every claim. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s award of damages for tortious interference with an inheritance on the basis that neither the Texas legislature nor the Supreme Court has recognized that cause of action. On appeal, the Kinsels urged the Supreme Court to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a cause of action and uphold their recovery. The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that the facts of this case did not warrant an enlargement of this state’s body of tort law, as the law provided an adequate remedy in this case - a constructive trust imposed on the disputed inheritance. View "Kinsel v. Lindsey" on Justia Law

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Respondent, who owned a ranch, sued Petitioner, which produced natural gas on the ranch, for underpayment of royalties and underproduction of its lease. The parties resolved their dispute with two agreements that contained an arbitration provision. Respondent later sued Petitioner for environmental contamination and improper disposal of hazardous materials on the ranch. Before arbitration commenced, Respondent asked the Railroad Commission (RRC) to investigate contamination of the ranch by Petitioner. Meanwhile, an arbitration panel awarded Respondent $15 million for actual damages and $500,000 for exemplary damages. At issue on appeal was whether the RRC had exclusive or primary jurisdiction over Respondent’s claims, precluding the arbitration, and whether the arbitration award should be vacated for the evident partiality of a neutral arbitrator or because the arbitrators exceeded their powers. The Supreme Court answered in the negative, holding (1) because Respondent’s claims were inherently judicial, the doctrine of primary jurisdiction did not apply, and vacatur was not warranted for failure to abate the arbitration hearing; and (2) the arbitrators did not exceed their authority. View "Forest Oil Corp. v. El Rucio Land & Cattle Co." on Justia Law

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T-4 permit to Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC to obtain common-carrier status, which would give it eminent domain authority pursuant to the Natural Resources Code. Denbury Green, which was formed to build and operate a carbon dioxide pipeline known as “the Green Line” as a common carrier in Texas, filed suit against Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. for an injunction allowing access to certain tracts of land so that it could complete a pipeline survey. While the suit was pending, Denbury Green took possession of Texas Rice’s property pursuant to Tex. Prop. Code 21-021(a). The trial court concluded that Denbury Green was a common carrier with eminent domain authority. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with the common-carrier test the Court established. The trial court granted summary judgment for Denbury Green. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that reasonable mind could differ regarding whether, at the time Denbury Green intended to build the Green Line, a reasonable probability existed that Green Line would serve the public. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment, holding that Denbury Green is a common carrier as a matter of law. View "Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC v. Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this case the trial court entered judgment terminating a bottom lease based on jury findings that the lease failed to produce in paying quantities over a specified period of time. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, concluding (1) the rule against perpetuities did not invalidate the top lease, and (2) the trial court erred in charging the jury on the production-in-paying-quantities question. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly remanded for a new trial where (1) the top lease did not violate the rule against perpetuities; and (2) the trial court erred in charging the jury on cessation of production in paying quantities. View "BP America Production Co. v. Laddex, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In appraising real property, an appraisal district may choose to divide a single tract into multiple accounts for various reasons. Valero Refining-Texas L.P. (Valero), the property owner in this case, protested some, but not all, of those accounts and not the valuation of the whole tract, claiming unequal taxation. Galveston Central Appraisal District moved for want of jurisdiction, arguing that an equal-and-uniform challenge can be determined only if made to the appraised value of the entire tract, not just to some of the component tax accounts. The trial court denied the motion. After a trial, the jury found that the property had been appraised unequally. The trial court rendered judgment on the verdict. The District appealed, arguing that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to determine an unequal appraisal challenge to anything but an entire tract. The court of appeals rejected the jurisdiction argument, concluding that the issue was one of fact, but ruling that there was no evidence to support the verdict. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court had jurisdiction of Valero’s appeal; (2) there was some evidence to support the jury’s findings; and (3) as a matter of law, appraisals of individual accounts may be challenged as unequal. View "Valero Refining - Texas, L.P. v. Galveston Central Appraisal District" on Justia Law

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An oil-and-gas lessor sued the lessee for failure to pay royalties. The trial court concluded that the lessor’s neighboring landowners were necessary parties to the suit and dismissed the case without prejudice because the lessor failed to join them. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in requiring joinder. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court abuse its discretion in requiring joinder under Tex. R. Civ. P. 39 and dismissing the case because the adjacent landowners did not claim an interest relating to the subject of the lessor’s suit against the lessee. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Crawford v. XTO Energy, Inc" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the interpretation a land description in an option contract between Landowners and an oil and gas company (Company). Landowners argued that the description excluded a 400-acre tract. Company argued that the description included the 400-acre tract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Company. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that the option contract was ambiguous and that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that Landowners’ interpretation of the contract was the only reasonable interpretation, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in holding that the contract was ambiguous. Remanded. View "North Shore Energy, L.L.C. v. Harkins" on Justia Law

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Homeowners’ association River Oaks Property Owners, Inc. (ROPO) sued homeowner Carolyn Keenan seeking an injunction requiring Keenan to remove improvements that allegedly violated a limit on impervious cover. The limit was found in 2006 “Amended Restrictions” that purported to amend the neighborhood’s deed restrictions. Keenan counterclaimed, asserting that the Amendment Restrictions were unenforceable because an insufficient number of homeowners had voted for them. Keenan moved to compel production of the homeowner ballots on the Amended Restrictions after ROPO asserted that the ballots were confidential and privileged voting records. The trial court refused to order production of the ballots but stated that Keenan’s counsel could review the ballots without disclosing the contents "to anyone else." Keenan sought mandamus relief. The court of appeals denied relief. The Supreme Court disagreed and conditionally granted relief, holding that Keenan was entitled to copy the ballots and disclose them for purposes of discovery, expert analysis, trial preparation, and trial. View "In re Carolyn Frost Keenan" on Justia Law