Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 88th District Court of Hardin County, Texas.
Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Rodriguez and Benavides.
ROGELIO VALDEZ Chief Justice.
Enbridge Pipelines (East Texas), L.P. appeals from the trial
court's grant of a plea to the jurisdiction in favor of
appellees Saratoga Timber Co., Ltd. (Saratoga), Batson
Corridor, L.P. (Batson), and Timbervest Partners Texas, L.P.
(Timbervest). By two issues, Enbridge contends that the trial
court lacked jurisdiction to rule on Saratoga's and
Batson's pleas to the jurisdiction. We dismiss this
appeal as to Saratoga as moot, and we affirm the judgment.
2006, Saratoga conveyed to Batson "an exclusive
easement, right-of-way and surface uses corridor . . . for
the construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair,
resizing use and operation of one or more pipelines."
Batson recorded the pipeline easement in the public records
of Hardin County, Texas in October 2006. In January 2007,
Enbridge filed a statement and petition for condemnation in
trial court cause number 47, 333 in the 88th Judicial
District Court of Hardin County, Texas seeking a permanent
and a temporary easement on the same property where
Batson's easement was located. The trial court appointed
special commissioners "to assess the damages in
accordance with the law." Saratoga did not appear at the
hearing, and the special commissioners granted Enbridge a
pipeline easement on the real property and awarded Saratoga
$33, 500 in damages.
March 2007, Saratoga filed a plea to the jurisdiction and
objections to the decision and award of the
commissioners. In January 2008, Enbridge filed its
alternative pleading adding Batson as a defendant in the
condemnation proceeding. Batson filed a plea to the
jurisdiction. The trial court granted both pleas. This appeal
United States and Texas Constitutions prohibit the taking of
any property without just compensation; thus, "[t]he
owner of any legal right or interest in land must therefore
be adequately compensated when the land is taken."
Zinsmeyer v. State, 646 S.W.2d 626, 628 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio 1983, no writ).
In condemnation proceedings where the property sought is
subject to a lease, the judge or jury first determines the
market value of the entire property as though it belonged to
one person. Then the fact finder apportions the market value
as between the lessee and the owner of the fee.
Urban Renewal Agency v. Trammel, 407 S.W.2d 773, 774
(Tex. 1966). As an easement constitutes an interest in land,
the easement owner is entitled to compensation if the
easement is extinguished by a taking. Zinsmeyer, 646
S.W.2d at 628.
of private property involves a two-part process. Amason
v. Nat. Gas Pipeline Co., 682 S.W.2d 240, 242 (Tex.
1984). During the first phase, the party seeking condemnation
initiates an administrative proceeding by filing a petition
for condemnation in the trial court. Hubenak v. San
Jacinto Gas Transmission Co., 141 S.W.3d 172, 179 (Tex.
2004); Amason, 682 S.W.2d at 242. Once a petition is
filed, the trial court appoints three disinterested
freeholders as special commissioners to assess the damages,
and they "convene a hearing and determine the value of
the property condemned and any damage to the remainder."
Hubenak, 141 S.W.3d at 179.
trial courts do not have general jurisdiction of an eminent
domain proceeding, after the commissioners make their
findings, the trial court is statutorily limited to only
rendering judgment on the commissioners' award. In re
State, 85 S.W.3d 871, 874 (Tex. App.-Tyler 2002, orig.
proceeding) (op. on reh'g); In re Energy
Transfer Fuel, LP, 250 S.W.3d 178, 180‒81
(Tex. App.-Tyler 2008, orig. proceeding). However, if either
party files objections to the award in the trial court,
"'the trial court shall cite the adverse party and
try the case in the same manner as other civil
cases.'" Hubenak, 141 S.W.3d at 179
(quoting Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 21.018 (West, Westlaw
through 2017 R.S.)). Filing the objections converts the
administrative proceeding into a normal pending trial cause,
the commissioners' award is vacated, and a trial de novo
is conducted. Hubenak, 141 S.W.3d at 179. The
objections "wip[e] out entirely the award of the
commissioners and preven[t] any judgment from being entered
based upon such an award." In re State, 85
S.W.3d at 877 (quoting Culligan Soft Water Svc. v.
State, 385 S.W.2d 613, 615 (Tex. Civ. App.-San Antonio
1964, writ ref'd n.r.e.)).
III.Saratoga's Interest in ...