A Road Less Traveled

The plaintiff sought a declaration that it has an easement by necessity to cross the defendant’s property to gain access to County Road 134.  Property law buffs (or those studying for the bar exam) will recall that an easement by necessity is established when there is:

  1. unity of ownership of the dominant and servient estates prior to severance;
  2. necessity of a roadway; and
  3. existence of the necessity at the time of the severance of the two estates.

The resolution of this case turned on the third element–specifically, whether CR 134 existed when the two tracts were severed nearly 150 years ago in 1866.  Because the plaintiff did not meet its burden of establishing that CR 134 was being used at that time, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding that the plaintiff does not have an easement by necessity across the defendant’s property to access CR 134.

Staley Family Partnership v. Stiles

Fences, Not Driveways, Make Good Neighbors

A developer in Wylie purchased two adjoining tracts of land.  In 2004, he decided to sell  one of the properties to Capital One.  However, the city decided that both properties would have to be developed as one site, with a single access site on the Capitol One property.  The parties therefore entered into a cross-easement agreement, requiring Capital One to pave the internal drives that would link the access site to both of the properties.  However, Capital One finished its construction and obtained a certificate of occupancy without ever constructing the new approach.  The developer ended up building the driveway himself, and sued Capital One to pay for its cost.  After a bench trial, the trial court awarded the developer awarding approximately $22,000 in damages and another $100,000 for attorney fees.

The court of appeals reversed.   According to the appellate court, the cross-easement agreement required the parties to “keep and maintain” the driveway, but not to actually construct it.  The court also rejected the developer’s argument that Capital One had breached the agreement by failing to comply with a government regulation by not constructing the driveway, because there was no evidence the city had ever ordered Capital One to construct it.  The court also rejected the developer’s quantum meruit argument for failing to attack all grounds asserted in the bank’s summary judgment motion, and remanded to the district court for a determination of the bank’s attorney fees as the prevailing party under their contract.

Capital One, N.A. v. Haddock, No. 05-10-01028-CV

No Parking

The court affirmed a take-nothing summary judgment on fraud and promissory estoppel claims arising out of the purchase of land. Mavex purchased property, which was subject to subject to a easement, for the construction of a condominium complex. The parties to the easement amended it to allow for the condominium and the use of an adjacent parking deck subject to approval of the construction plans. Metzler, one of the easement holders, later refused to approve the condominium plans due to a dispute over the correct allocation of parking spaces for the exclusive use of the condominium tower as Mavex’s plans specified. Mavex sued Metzler and its predecessors-in-interest. Mavex alleged that before and after they entered into the purchase agreement for the property, the defendants assured Mavex that the plans were acceptable and that they relied on this approval of the condominium plans. The trial court granted summary judgment against Mavex.

On appeal, the court held that Mavex presented no evidence to support their promissory estoppel and fraud claims because Mavex’s affidavit evidence merely provided conclusory allegations that the appellees made assurances Mavex relied on, but did not identify with any specificity when the statements were made nor what actions appellants took in reliance on them. The court further held that, at any rate, the alleged statements were insufficient to support Mavex’s claims, and affirmed the summary judgment.

Mavex Management Corporation v. Hines Dallas Hotel Limited Partnership, et al, 05-09-01281-CV