Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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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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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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This case involved a dispute over the fair market value of acreage on which a gas processing facility was located. At issue was whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting an expert's testimony that allegedly violated the value-to-the-taker rule, which prohibits measuring land's value by its unique value to a condemnor in determining a landowner's compensation. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the expert's testimony violated the rule because it impermissibly focused on the condemnor's interest in retaining the property and was therefore inadmissible. Remanded. View "Enbridge Pipelines L.P. v. Avinger Timber, LLC" on Justia Law

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The City notified a building owner that her property was in disrepair and that, unless she repaired it, the City might demolish it. After the owner failed to remedy the problem, the City declared the property a public nuisance and condemned it. Rather than appeal the nuisance determination, the property owner asserted a takings claim after the demolition. The City field an immunity-based plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court granted. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that the administrative-level decision to demolish the owner's property did not preclude her from seeking a de novo review of that decision in a constitutional suit. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered judgment dismissing the owner's claims, holding that because the owner never appealed her nuisance determination, her takings claims were barred, and the trial court correctly dismissed them. View "City of Beaumont v. Como" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to article V, section 3-c of the Texas Constitution and Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 58.1, the court accepted the petition from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to answer three certified questions. The central issue in this case was one of first impression: whether private beachfront properties on Galveston Island's West Beach were impressed with a right of public use under Texas law without proof of an easement. The court concluded that land patents from the Republic of Texas in 1840, affirmed by legislation in the New State of Texas a few years later, conveyed the State's title in West Galveston Island to private parties and reserved no ownership interests or rights to public use in Galveston's West Beach. Texas law had not otherwise recognized such an inherent limitation on property rights along the West Beach. Accordingly, there were no inherent limitations on title or continuous rights in the public since time immemorial that served as a basis for engrafting public easements for use of private West Beach property. Although existing public easements in the dry beach of Galveston's West Beach were dynamic, these easements did not spring or roll landward to encumber other parts of the parcel or new parcels as a result of avulsive events. New public easements on the adjoining private properties could be established if proven pursuant to the Open Beaches Act, Tex. Nat. Res. Code 61.001(8) or the common law. View "Severance v. Patterson, et al." on Justia Law

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This action arose out of condemnation proceedings initiated by the State after the landowners and the State could not agree on the amount of compensation for a .33 acres out of a 3.5 acre tract of land fronting U.S. Highway 290 in Travis County. At issue was whether the trial court erred by only charging the jury to find the pre-taking value of the tract when there was evidence the taking did not cause damage to the remainder and whether there was any evidence the remainder suffered compensable damages. The court concluded that the trial court committed charge error by inquiring whether the landowner suffered damages to the remainder. The court also held that there was no evidence the taking caused compensable damages to the remainder and based on the jury findings, the value of the tract taken could be determined. Accordingly, the court reversed the court of appeals judgment and remanded to the trial court for rendition of judgment.