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Bright Land & Cattle, LLC v. PG-M International, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

March 9, 2017


         On Appeal from the 100th District Court Carson County, Texas Trial Court No. 11430, Honorable Stuart Messer, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.


          Brian Quinn Chief Justice

         Appellant, Bright Land & Cattle, LLC, (Bright) appeals from a temporary injunction granted in favor of appellees, PG-M International, LLC (a/k/a Matra Petroleum Oil & Gas, LLC), PG-M International Operating, LLC (a/k/a Matra Petroleum Operating, LLC), and Matra Petroleum U.S.A., Inc., collectively "Matra." The trial court's temporary injunction declared a 100′ wide power line easement across certain sections of Bright's ranch, described the easement by metes and bounds, and ordered that Bright refrain from interfering with or disconnecting the power lines running along the easement. On appeal from that order, Bright contends that the trial court abused its discretion by granting injunctive relief for a number of reasons. We reverse.


         The evidence takes us back to 2007 when Lera, LLC (a company owned by Randy Dixon) and SNW JB Properties (a company owned by Jerry Nolen) proposed to drill an oil and gas well on a ranch. Though the ranch contained electrical poles and lines, the site at which the well was to be drilled lacked access to them. To address the situation, Nolen approached the ranch owner, Montford Johnson.

         Johnson and Nolen discussed the matter and the two men came to an oral agreement, consent to which was represented by a handshake. Per the agreement, Nolen would connect to the ranch's existing electrical line located on Section 12 for purposes of powering the mineral well. To do that though, the line would have to cross over other sections of the ranch, which sections were also owned by Johnson. As part of the arrangement, Nolen also agreed to provide electricity to a nearby water well of Johnson (without cost to Johnson) once the line to the mineral well was completed.

         The mineral well was drilled and electrical lines were built. The situation remained so until the entity who bought Johnson's interest in the ranch (i.e., Bright) discovered that the water well had no electricity. This occurred in November of 2015, and Bright concluded that Matra, Nolen and Dixon's purported successor, had disconnected or severed the electrical wire to the water well. Prior thereto, Bright had received a communication from Matra regarding use of the electricity at the mineral well site. Matra apparently believed that Bright impermissibly tapped into the line. Therefore, it demanded that Bright stop using the power for free. So, when Bright discovered that the water well was not getting electricity, it deduced, correctly or not, that Matra caused the circumstance and decided to respond by disconnecting the electrical lines from Section 12 to the mineral well.

         The circumstances resulted in Bright suing Matra and Matra counterclaiming against Bright. Needless to say, their respective pleadings allege numerous causes of action, but the one of import here is the declaratory relief sought by Matra. Among other things, it requested the trial court to declare that it "as well as any and all successors in interest, have an easement to run power across the Ranch to service the oil and gas leases at issue." Matra also sought the following relief:

Matra requests that the Court issue a temporary restraining order and set the request for an injunction for hearing and, after hearing, enter a temporary injunction and, after trial, a permanent injunction declaring that the claimed easement is valid and inures to Matra, as well as its successors in interest.

         The trial court convened a hearing on the request for temporary injunctive relief and granted same. In doing so, it found a probable right of recovery, but then it "ORDERED and DECLARED that a One Hundred Foot (100') power line easement exists in favor of Matra and its successors over land belonging to Bright Land & Cattle, LLC, specifically lying in Sections 10, 11, and 12." In addition to being 100' wide, the easement exceeded two miles in length.

         Bright appealed. It asserted various grounds purporting to illustrate that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the "temporary" relief.

         Standard of Review

         The purpose of a temporary injunction is to preserve the status quo pending a final hearing on the merits. Clint Indep. Sch. Dist v. Marquez,487 S.W.3d 538, 555 (Tex. 2016); SHA, LLC v. NW. Tex. Healthcare Sys., Inc., No. 07-13-00320-CV, 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 38, at *2 (Tex. App.-Amarillo Jan. 3, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.). Indeed, the only question to be decided by the trial court is whether the status quo should be preserved. Transp. Co. v. Robertson Transps., Inc.,152 Tex. 551, 261 S.W.2d 549, 552 (1953). Consequently, the temporary relief awarded cannot accomplish the object of the suit. See Tex. Foundries, Inc. v. Int'l Moulders & Foundry Workers Union,248 S.W.2d 460, 464 (1952); Friona Indep. Sch. Dist. v. King,15 S.W.3d 653, 657 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2000, no pet.). As we said in Friona I.S.D., "[t]o do so is tantamount to adjudicating the litigants' respective rights without the benefit of a trial and, therefore, is error." Id. More importantly, when accomplishing that object divests a party of a property right without a trial, the order is void. See James v. E. Weinstein & Sons,12 S.W.2d 959, 961 (Tex. Comm'n App. 1952, holding approved); Hidden Valley Civic Club v. Brown,702 S.W.2d 665, 667 (Tex. App. Houston-[14th Dist.] 1985, no writ) (involving a temporary injunction and stating that "[t]he court is without authority to divest a party of property rights without a trial and any attempt to do so is void"); Williamson v. Cty. of Dallas,519 S.W.2d 495, 498 (Tex. Civ. App.-Waco 1975, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (involving a temporary injunction and stating that "[t]he ...

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