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Chaney v. Camacho

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 11, 2013

George T. CHANEY and Medina County, Appellants
v.
Simon CAMACHO and Felipe Camacho, Appellees

From the 38th Judicial District Court, Medina County, Texas Trial Court No. 11-03-20524-CV Honorable Stephen B. Ables, Judge Presiding

Sitting: Catherine Stone, Chief Justice Sandee Bryan Marion, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Sandee Bryan Marion, Justice

This appeal concerns whether a portion of Medina County Road 674 is a private road or was dedicated to the public. The jury determined the road—which we will refer to as the "disputed road"—was private. The disputed road is an extension of County Road 674, which runs east and west. To the east of FM 471, which runs north and south, the road is referred to as County Road 674 East. From FM 471 heading west to FM 463, which runs north and south, the road is referred to as County Road 674 West. At FM 463, the road continues west for seven-tenths of a mile and it is this unpaved portion of the road that is in dispute. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

In 1951 Juan Camacho purchased land in Medina County on which he lived and farmed with his wife and children. Juan died in 2001 and left the property to his wife, who later transferred the property to two of their sons, appellees Simon and Felipe Camacho. Simon later purchased a tract of land adjoining the farm. Appellant, George T. Chaney, purchased his Medina County property in 1980. The Camachos' property and Chaney's property both border FM 463. The disputed road forms a boundary between Chaney's property to the north and the Camachos' property to the south. However, a survey reveals the disputed road lies within the Camacho's property. County Road 674 is identified as Road 1901/2 in a 1927 plat filed by the Trustees of the San Antonio Trust Subdivision of Lands. At some point in 1979, Road 1901/2 was renumbered as County Road 674 West.

In the underlying lawsuit, Chaney sued Simon, Felipe, and Medina County asking for a declaratory judgment adjudicating the public status of the disputed road. Chaney asserts the disputed road is a public road that intersects FM 463, and it is one of many public roads dedicated to the public by the Trustees in the plat almost eighty years ago, and has been treated as a county or public road ever since. The Camachos, who claim the road as their private driveway, counter-sued Chaney and Medina County for a declaratory judgment adjudicating the private status of the disputed road. The Camachos contend their property is part of the original San Antonio Trust Lands and that the Trustees merely dedicated several portions of Trust land as "easements" to be used for non-profit purposes. There is no dispute that Chaney's land was never part of the Trust lands.

A jury returned a verdict in favor of the Camachos, answering in the negative the following three questions: (1) was the disputed road expressly dedicated to the public use as a public road, (2) was the disputed road dedicated to the public by implied dedication, and (3) are the Camachos estopped from denying that the disputed road is a public road? On appeal, Chaney and Medina County (collectively, "appellants") challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting these jury findings.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The jury was asked about the "public" status of the disputed road, issues on which appellants bore the burden of proof. When the party who had the burden of proof at trial complains of the legal insufficiency of an adverse finding, that party must demonstrate the evidence establishes conclusively (i.e., as a matter of law) all vital facts in support of the finding sought. Dow Chem. Co. v. Francis, 46 S.W.3d 237, 241 (Tex. 2001). A reviewing court must examine the record for evidence supporting the adverse finding, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Id. If more than a scintilla of evidence supports the adverse finding, the issue is overruled. Id. If there is no evidence to support the adverse finding, the entire record must be examined to determine whether the contrary proposition is established as a matter of law. Id. The issue is sustained only if the contrary proposition is conclusively established. Id. The ultimate test for legal sufficiency is whether the evidence would enable a reasonable and fair-minded fact finder to reach the verdict under review. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 827 (Tex. 2005).

When a party attacks the factual sufficiency of an adverse finding on an issue on which it had the burden of proof, the party must demonstrate on appeal that the adverse finding is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. Dow Chem., 46 S.W.3d at 242. A reviewing court considers all the evidence and will set aside the judgment only if it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence that it is clearly wrong and unjust. Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1986). Under either standard of review, the trier of fact is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. McGalliard v. Kuhlmann, 722 S.W.2d 694, 697 (Tex. 1986); see also City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d at 819.

PUBLIC USE OF A ROAD

"A road may become public, in the sense that members of the public have the right to use it, by dedication." Worthington v. Wade, 82 Tex. 26, 17 S.W. 520, 521 (1891). "Dedication" of a private roadway is the setting aside of land for the public use as a passageway. Viscardi v. Pajestka, 576 S.W.2d 16, 18 (Tex. 1978). An owner's intent to dedicate may be either express or implied from the owner's conduct. Id. at 19; Gutierrez v. County of Zapata, 951 S.W.2d 831, 837 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1997, no writ). ...


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