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Wade v. Wade

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

March 31, 2017

James E. Wade, Appellant
Johnny Wade, Individually; Amanda Wade, Individually; and Amanda Wade, as the Independent Executor of the Estate of Edell Wade, Appellees



          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Field and Shannon [*]


          Bob E. Shannon, Justice

         We withdraw the opinion and judgment issued January 26, 2017, and substitute the following opinion and judgment in their place. Appellant's motion for rehearing is denied.

         This is an appeal from a take-nothing judgment of the county court-at-law of Burnet County in a suit to rescind the sale of a ranch. Appellant is James E. Wade (Bud), and appellees are his brother and sister-in-law, Johnny and Amanda Wade. Amanda was sued individually and as executor of the Estate of Edell Wade.

         In 2004, Edell Wade, Bud and Johnny's mother, sold her ranch to Johnny and Amanda. In 2012, after Edell's death, Bud sued Johnny and Amanda claiming fraud, and like causes of action, in an effort to rescind the sale. The court granted Johnny and Amanda's partial summary judgment for all of Bud's claims save one, which it submitted to a jury. Upon jury findings favorable to Johnny and Amanda, the court rendered final judgment that Bud take nothing. This Court will affirm the judgment.

         The ranch consists of 475 acres situated in the hills of north Burnet County near the Lampasas County line. In 1952, Otto and Edell Wade, Bud and Johnny's father and mother, purchased the ranch from the estate of Edell's parents. Doubtless by dint of hard work and thrifty management, Otto and Edell coaxed a livelihood from the ranch for themselves and their seven children. After the children left home, the Wades continued to live on and operate the ranch. When Otto sickened and died in 1996, Edell, age 81, remained on the ranch determined to live out the balance of her days there and hoping that the ranch would somehow remain in the family.

         Edell was a sturdy, resolute country woman. She had always worked on the ranch alongside her husband. After a full day's work outside, she still had duties in the house such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. As her daughter Charlene testified, she was a "pretty strong woman" with "strong thoughts."

         Johnny was the youngest child and his mother's favorite. Even when he was a grown man, Edell was fond of introducing him as her "baby son." When Johnny graduated from Lampasas High School, he left Central Texas for California. At first, he worked as a laborer, all the while learning the steel-construction business. After several years, he formed his own successful steel-construction operation. Almost from the time of his arrival in California, he telephoned his mother every week.

         In the meantime, Johnny met and married Amanda. Although trained in law, she eventually managed the office operation of Johnny's construction business.

         Johnny and Amanda visited Edell on the ranch whenever his work allowed him to leave California. During these visits, Johnny built several outbuildings on the ranch, including a shop and a garage with an apartment. He testified that whatever his mother needed, he would see that she received it.

         Edell visited Johnny and Amanda in California several times. On one visit, she stayed a month. Once they took her on a cruise off the California coast to Mexico. Amanda took her sightseeing and shopping around town. Edell's granddaughter, Kim George, testified that Edell liked Amanda and admired her for being able "to do anything a guy could do."

         During all of this time, Johnny continued to worry about Edell living alone on the ranch. Apart from Johnny, and sister Emma, who lived in Georgia, not many of the other children spent much time at the ranch, although daughter Nancy was there at regular intervals because Edell paid her to do some of the housework and ranch chores. Edell, however, was the principal care-giver for the livestock and the land. For example, one night one of the cows was having trouble giving birth to its calf. Edell, by herself, delivered the calf. But life on the ranch was sometimes hard. During a winter storm, the electricity was off for some time, shutting off power to the well pump. As there was no water in the house, Edell carried water up from the creek for household use. Johnny and Amanda paid for the installation of a central cooling and heating system in the house after Edell had suffered from heat exhaustion during the course of a particularly hot spell.

         In time, Johnny became concerned that his mother was not receiving proper care and decided that he needed to return to the home place to take care of her. When Johnny and Amanda were at the ranch for the holidays in late 2003, he asked Edell if she would sell the ranch to ...

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