Stand Athwart History, Yelling ‘Sue’

The court reversed a judgment in favor the Texas Historical Commission and the City of Dallas related to demolition of a historical building and rendered a take nothing judgment for TWE. In March 2006, the City granted TWE a permit to demolish an historical Railway freight station in the West End of Dallas. The City later determined that the permit was improperly issued and revoked it. The City contended that they told TWE of the revocation and placed notice at the property. TWE proceeded with demolition. The City and THC sued TWE under the Local Government Code for demolishing a historic building without proper municipal approval and for fraud. The jury found against TWE on all claims, but the trial court granted TWE’s motion to disregard, in part, and awarded only civil penalties and damages under the Government Code.

The Government Code provides a cause of action for a city against someone who adversely affects a historic structure, but only if the City has already filed a verified listing of historic structures with the county clerk. The Code goes on to provide a cause of action for the THC if the city fails to pursue the cause of action under that same section. On appeal, the court held that the THC’s cause of action also required that the City file the required listing, which was not done, and therefore the THC’s action failed. Also, the statutes under which the City sought civil penalties did not specifically provide civil penalties. One allowed the City to adopt such penalties, which it never did, and the second addressed the enforcement of health and safety ordinance, not historical structure zoning. Thus, the trial court erred by assessing penalties against TWE.

TWE v. City of Dallas and Texas Historical Commission, No. 05-11-00582-CV