Loose Lips Fail to Sink Summary Judgment

A Highland Park property dispute has resulted in a 30-page memorandum opinion affirming the trial court’s summary judgment ruling that the defendants have title to a strip of land adjacent to their home, but also reversing an attorney fee award of $40,670 against the plaintiff, Armstrong DLO Properties. ADLO filed suit, seeking to establish that (among very many other things) a 1949 warranty deed in the defendants’ chain of title was invalid, which would make the frontage of ADLO’s lot approximately 155 feet wide.

During the summary judgment hearing, the trial court revealed that it had sua sponte discovered that ADLO’s owner had successfully sued the estate of his father seeking reformation to the deed, establishing that the frontage was only 140 feet wide. The court orally stated that it would take judicial notice of that judgment, describing it as an issue of “estoppel.” The court subsequently granted summary judgment for the defendants without identifying the grounds for its ruling. The Court of Appeals rejected ADLO’s claim that the district court had improperly relied on matters outside the record in granting the summary judgment, as there was nothing in the written summary judgment order indicating that the court had actually granted summary judgment on the basis of the prior judgment. Because the grounds otherwise presented in the defendants’ motion were sufficient to justify summary judgment, the Court affirmed it. However, the Court reversed as to the award of attorney fees, holding that fees were not recoverable under the Declaratory Judgments Act because the issue was title to the property, not the location of the boundary between properties. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 37.004(c).

Armstrong DLO Props., LLC v. Furniss, No. 05-13-01581-CV

Update: The pressure is now on a for a three-peat next week.

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