Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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Title to property of a local church (the Good Shepherd) was held by a Texas non-profit corporation (Corporation). The Corporation was formed as a condition of Good Shepherd's congregation being accepted into union with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas (Diocese). After members of Good Shepherd's parishioners began to disagree with doctrinal positions adopted by The Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC), a majority of the congregation voted to amend Good Shepherd's articles of incorporation and bylaws to withdraw God Shepherd from communion with TEC and the Diocese. The Corporation and the withdrawing faction maintained possession of the property. The Diocese and leaders of the portion of the congregation loyal to TEC and the Diocese filed suit seeking possession of the property. The trial court granted summary judgment for the loyal faction, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the legal methodology called "neutral principles of law," rather than "deference," should be applied in this case; and (2) applying neutral principles of law to the record, the trial court erred by granting summary judgment. Remanded. View "Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas" on Justia Law

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The Fort Worth Diocese was formed in 1982 and was admitted into union with The Episcopal Church (TEC). The Fort Worth Corporation was formed the next year. After a doctrinal controversy arose within the TEC, the Forth Worth Corporation filed amendments to its articles of incorporation to remove all references to TEC. The Fort Worth Diocese then voted to withdraw from TEC. TEC later filed suit against the Fort Worth Diocese, the Fort Worth Corporation, the former Bishop, and other former TEC members (the Diocese) seeking possession of the property held in the name of the Diocese and the Fort Worth Corporation. The parties disagreed whether the "deference" or "neutral principles of law" methodology should be applied to resolve the property issue. The trial court agreed with TEC that deference principles should apply, and after applying deference principles, granted summary judgment for TEC. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) based on the Court's decision in Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas, the trial court erred by granting summary judgment to TEC on the basis of deference principles; and (2) the case must be remanded for further proceedings under neutral principles. Remanded. View "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth v. Episcopal Church" on Justia Law

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The City of Lorena approved a subdivision plat. The City, however, subsequently enforced a moratorium against the property, citing the municipality's additional sewage system capacity requirements. The landowner sued for a declaratory judgment that the moratorium did not apply against its approved development and for damages, alleging a regulatory taking under an inverse condemnation claim. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the moratorium could not apply to the property because the property had been approved for development before the moratorium took effect. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the moratorium did not apply to the property because the City approved the property for subdivision before it enacted the moratorium; and (2) in regards to the inverse condemnation claim, the trial court needed to resolve factual disputes before the merits of the takings claim could be judicially addressed. Remanded. View "City of Lorena v. BMTP Holdings, LP" on Justia Law

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Seller and Buyers entered into a contract for a deed. Buyers made payments to Seller for almost three years. Because Seller did not provide Buyers with all information required by Tex. Prop. Code 5(D), Buyers later told Seller they were exercising their statutory right to cancel and rescind the contract for deed. Seller sued Buyers for breach of contract. Buyers counterclaimed for violations under the Property Code, among other statutory violations. Seller, in turn, alleged he was entitled to a setoff in the amount of the fair market rental value of the property for the time Buyers occupied the house. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Buyers, awarding actual damages for cancellation and rescission of the contract for deed, among other damages. The Court reversed the trial court's awards of actual damages for cancellation and rescission, holding (1) subchapter D's cancellation-and-rescission remedy contemplates mutual restitution of benefits among the parties; and (2) thus, Buyers were required to restore to Seller supplemental enrichment in the form of rent for their interim occupation of the property upon cancellation and rescission of the contract for deed. Remanded. View "Morton v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

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Respondents were successors-in-interest to 380 acres of land once owned by Baker, now deceased. Petitioners entered into a lease agreement with Baker that contained an option allowing Petitioners to buy the land if Baker decided to sell it. Petitioners and Baker subsequently agreed that Petitioners would purchase the 380 acres for $470,000. Petitioners attempted to exercise their right to buy the property under the agreement, but Respondents brought a declaratory judgment action to void the agreement. The trial court rendered a final judgment for Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the agreement was ambiguous as to whether it was a presently binding contract or merely an agreement to agree, and (2) therefore, the agreement's enforceability was a fact issue that should not have been determined by summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the agreement contained all material terms and was an enforceable contract as a matter of law. Remanded. View "McCalla v. Baker's Campground, Inc." on Justia Law

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Homes built with an exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) suffer serious water damage that worsens over time. Homebuilder began a remediation program in which it offered to homeowners to remove exterior EIFS from the homes it had built and to replace it with conventional stucco. Almost all the homeowners accepted Homebuilder's offer of remediation. Homebuilder sought indemnification for the costs from its insurers (Insurers). Insurers denied coverage, preferring instead to wait until the homeowners sued. This litigation ensued. Now, only one insurer remained. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of Homebuilder, finding (1) Homebuilder failed to establish its legal liability to the homeowners to trigger Insurer's coverage; and (2) Homebuilder failed to offer evidence of damages covered by the policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Homebuilder's settlements with the homeowners established both Insurer's legal liability for the property damages and the basis for determining the amount of loss; and (2) Insurer's policy covered Homebuilder's entire remediation costs for damaged homes. View "Lennar Corp. v. Markel Am. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff owed the surface estate of a forty-acre tract. Defendant, the lessee of the tract's severed mineral estate, constructed a well site on Plaintiff's tract without Plaintiff's approval. Plaintiff filed suit seeking an injunction requiring Defendant to remove the well, asserting that Defendant failed to accommodate his existing use of the surface so Defendant's acts exceeded its rights in the mineral estate and constituted a trespass. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, even assuming that the failure of Defendant's operations to accommodate Defendant's existing use would have been sufficient to support injunctive relief, Plaintiff failed to raise a material fact issue as to whether Defendant failed to accommodate his use. View "Merriman v. XTO Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved an inverse-condemnation dispute over ten acres. At issue was who had title to the parcel: the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the City of Edinburg (City), or API Pipe Supply and Paisano Service Company (collectively, API). In 2003, the trial court awarded the City a "fee title" to the property subject to a drainage easement granted to TxDOT. In 2004, the trial court entered a judgment purporting to render the 2003 judgment null and void. API claimed the judgment gave API fee-simple ownership, subject to a drainage easement granted to the City, and, via subsequent conveyance, to TxDOT. In 2005, TxDOT began its drainage project. API, relying on the 2004 judgment, brought a takings claim for the value of the removed soil. The trial court held in favor of API, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the suit, holding (1) the 2004 judgment was void and therefore could not supersede the valid 2003 judgment; (2) API was statutorily ineligible for "innocent purchaser" status, and equitable estoppel was inapplicable against the government in this case; and (3) because API held no interest in the land, API's takings claim failed. View "Dep't of Transp. v. A.P.I. Pipe & Supply, LLC" on Justia Law

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El Dorado Land Company sold property to the City of McKinney for use as a park. El Dorado's special warranty deed provided that the conveyance was subject to the restriction that the community only be used for that purpose. If the City decided not to use the property as a community park, the deed granted El Dorado the right to purchase the property. Ten years after acquiring the property, the City built a public library on part of the land. El Dorado notified the City it intended to exercise its option to purchase, but after the City failed to acknowledge El Dorado's rights under the deed, El Dorado sued for inverse condemnation. The trial court sustained the City's plea to the jurisdiction, finding that El Dorado's claim did not involve a compensable taking of property but, rather, a breach of contract for which the City's governmental immunity had not been waived. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in its deed to the City, El Dorado retained a reversionary interest in the property that was a property interest capable of being taken by condemnation. Remanded. View "El Dorado Land Co., LP v. City of McKinney" on Justia Law

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Landowner purchased property for the purpose of developing the land, obtained permits, and filled a portion of the property to the 100-year flood level. The municipality subsequently constructed a facility partly on the property that would detain storm water on the property in a significant flood, thus causing the property again to be below the 100-year flood level and undevelopable without additional fill. Landowner sought damages under statutory and inverse condemnation theories. The trial court ruled in favor of Landowner and awarded damages of $694,600. The court of appeals reversed as to the inverse condemnation claim, holding the claim was premature because the property had not yet flooded. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claim was not premature because Landowner's claim was for the present inability to develop the property as previously approved unless the property was filled. Remanded. View "Kopplow Dev., Inc. v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law