James H. Davis, Individually and d/b/a JD Minerals, and JDMI, LLC, Petitioners,
Mark Mueller, Respondent
March 23, 2017
Petition for Review from the Court of Appeals for the Sixth
District of Texas
Justice Boyd did not participate in the decision.
L. Hecht Chief Justice.
law has long given effect to a general conveyance of all the
grantor's property in a geographic area, such as a
county,  the state,  or even the United States,
thereby enlarging an accompanying conveyance of property
specifically described. We did not do so in J. Hiram Moore,
Ltd. v. Greer because we concluded that the deed was
ambiguous. The court of appeals reached the same
conclusion in this case, but we think the deed here is clear.
Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals'
judgment and render judgment for petitioner.
1991, Virginia Cope,  a Georgia resident at the time, conveyed
to JD Minerals her mineral interests in ten vaguely described
tracts in Harrison County, Texas. JD Minerals is James H.
Davis's business name, and we refer to both of them as
"Davis." The conveyance was on a printed form with
tiny text. The list of tracts was followed by this sentence:
Grantor agrees to execute any supplemental instrument
requested by Grantee for a more complete or accurate
description of said land.
three-sentence paragraph after the sentence just quoted
contained a two-sentence Mother Hubbard clause and a general
The "Lands" subject to this deed also include all
strips, gores, roadways, water bottoms and other lands
adjacent to or contiguous with the lands specifically
described above and owned or claimed by Grantors. If the
description above proves incorrect in any respect or does not
include these adjacent or contiguous lands, Grantor shall,
without additional consideration, execute, acknowledge, and
deliver to Grant[ee], its successors and assigns, such
instruments as are useful or necessary to correct the
description and evidence such correction in the appropriate
public records. Grantor hereby conveys to Grantee all of the
mineral, royalty, and overriding royalty interest owned by
Grantor in Harrison County, whether or not same is herein
above correctly described.
the same time, it so happened that James Hammond Mills, a
Florida resident, conveyed his mineral interests in two
tracts, also in Harrison County, also to Davis. The conveyance
was on an identical form with a similarly vague description
of the tracts followed by the same provisions.
2011, Cope and Mills, independently, deeded to respondent
Mark J. Mueller, a landman who had contacted them, the
interests they had conveyed, respectively, to Davis in 1991.
After obtaining the deeds from Cope and Mills, Mueller sued
Davis to quiet title to the mineral interests (the
"title claim"). Mueller asserted that the
property descriptions and general granting clause in the 1991
deeds were insufficient to satisfy the requirement of the
Statute of Frauds that property conveyed be identified
with reasonable certainty. Mueller also sued for
conversion of the royalties and payments obtained from the
mineral interests, adverse possession, fraud,  and failure
of consideration (the "other claims"). Davis raised
various affirmative defenses. Both sides moved for summary
judgment on the title issue. Davis did not contend that the
property descriptions in the 1991 deed satisfied the Statute
of Frauds but argued that the general granting clause was
sufficient to pass title of all the grantors' mineral
interests in Harrison County. The trial court denied
Mueller's motion and granted Davis's without stating
the grounds, and rendered a take-nothing judgment against
appeal, Mueller argued that the general granting clause is
ambiguous because it purports to convey all the grantor's
interests in the county-a large amount of property-although
located in the same paragraph as the Mother Hubbard clause, a
catch-all for small, overlooked interests. The court of
appeals agreed, concluding that the parties' intent is a
fact issue to be decided by a jury.Although Mueller confined
his arguments to his title claim, the court also reversed
summary judgment on his other claims of statutory fraud,
conversion, and adverse possession.
We granted Davis's petition for review.
the Statute of Frauds requires only that certain promises or
agreements be in writing and signed by the person to be
charged,  as applied to real-estate conveyances,
"the writing must furnish within itself, or by reference
to some other existing writing, the means or data by which
the land to be conveyed may be identified with reasonable
certainty." Forty-five years ago, we noted that this
"rule by which to test the sufficiency of the
description [of property to be conveyed] is so well settled
at this point in our judicial history, and by such a long
series of decisions by this Court, as almost to compel
repetition by rote." Nothing since then has
occurred to call the rule into question.
specific property descriptions in Cope's and Mills's
1991 deeds to Davis do not satisfy the Statute of Frauds, and
as we have just said, Davis does not argue to the contrary.
But Texas law has also long regarded general granting clauses
as valid and effective, a proposition Mueller does not
dispute. We could not give effect to a general
granting clause in J. Hiram Moore, Ltd. v. Greer
because it was ambiguous. Mueller argues, and the court
of appeals agreed, that the same is true here. But
Moore was different.
Greer and her three sisters partitioned an 80-acre tract in
the Railroad Survey in Wharton County into four 20-acre
tracts. Each received the surface estate and
minerals in one tract and a non-participating royalty
interest in each of the other three tracts. Two of the
tracts, not Greer's, were pooled with an adjacent tract
in the Barnard Survey to form the SixS Frels
unit. Greer then deeded the mineral royalties
produced from "[a]ll of that tract of land out of the
[Barnard Survey]" known as the SixS Frels
unit. Greer owned no unit royalty interest in
any tract in the Barnard Survey. So the specific
description conveyed nothing. But "[i]n addition",
the deed continued, "it is the intent of this instrument
to convey . . . all of [Greer's] royalty and overriding
royalty interest in [Wharton County]". This general
grant would have included the interests she did own in the
Railroad Survey. Because the deed "in effect states that
Greer conveys nothing, and that she conveys everything",
we concluded that it was ambiguous and could not be construed
as a matter of law.
Moore, the general granting clause created an
ambiguity; in the present case, it resolves one. Mueller does
not argue that Cope and Mills, like Greer, did not own the
mineral interests they attempted to convey by their 1991
deeds. Rather, he argues that the deficiencies of the
specific descriptions cannot be cured by the general granting
clause. But that is precisely the purpose of the general
grant when included with specific grants.
argues that the 1991 deeds are ambiguous because the general
granting clause is in the same paragraph as the Mother
Hubbard clause. A Mother Hubbard clause is not effective to
convey a significant property interest not adequately
described in the deed. The proximity shows, Mueller
contends, that the general grant was only of all small pieces
of the specifically described tracts in Harrison County, not
of other tracts. But if that were true, the general grant
would accomplish nothing; the Mother Hubbard clause itself
covers small pieces that may have been overlooked or
incorrectly described. The general grant's conveyance of
"all of the mineral, royalty, and overriding royalty
interest owned by Grantor in Harrison County, whether or not
same is herein above correctly described" could not be
clearer. All means all.
also argues that, as we stated in Texas Builders v.
Keller, a reference to "an unidentified portion of
a larger, identifiable tract is not sufficient" to
satisfy the Statute of Frauds.We agree with that proposition,
of course, but it has no application here. A conveyance of
the northor east part of a tract does not
identify specific acreage; neither does a conveyance of a
certain number of acres out of a subdivision or survey in
which the grantor owns multiple tracts. The rule
Mueller cites would apply if Cope and Mills had conveyed part
of what they owned in Harrison County, because the parts
could not be identified from the deeds. But they conveyed
argues that each grantor's express agreement "to
execute any supplemental instrument requested by Grantee for
a more complete or accurate description of said land"
shows that the parties contemplated that any other tracts
would be covered by separate instruments, which would not be
necessary if the general grant covered them. But the
agreement is consistent with the general grant. It simply
provides that if supplemental instruments are required to
carry out the specific and general grants, the grantor will
Mueller argues that the general grant should not be enforced
according to its terms because Davis is a bad actor who has
been sued many times for fraud, including by the Texas
Attorney General. But none of the other actions Mueller cites
are remotely related to this suit. Texas Rule of Evidence
404(a) provides that "[e]vidence of a person's
character or character trait is not admissible to prove that
on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with
the character or trait." And even if it were,
Mueller's evidence of Davis's character is no reason
to interpret the general grants in the 1991 deeds other than
according to their plain terms.
conclude that the general grants in the 1991 deeds are valid
and unambiguous, conveying title of Cope's and
Mills's Harrison County mineral interests to Davis.
Because those conveyances preceded the ...