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Mayberry v. Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

January 18, 2018

LYNDON MAYBERRY, Appellant
v.
KINDER MORGAN CRUDE & CONDENSATE, LLC, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 412th District Court Brazoria County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 71532

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Boyce and Jewell.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KEVIN JEWELL JUSTICE

         In this condemnation proceeding, appellant Lyndon Mayberry challenges the trial court's judgment condemning certain Brazoria County property in favor of appellee Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate, LLC ("KMCC"). In four issues, Mayberry asserts that: (1) he has constitutional standing; (2) there is legally sufficient evidence that he has standing; (3) the trial court's judgment is void for lack of jurisdiction; and (4) certain statutory provisions concerning notice in a condemnation proceeding are unconstitutional.

         Because we conclude that Mayberry lacks an ownership interest in the condemned property, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         KMCC filed a petition for condemnation, seeking to acquire a permanent easement for construction of a common-carrier pipeline through property in Brazoria County. KMCC identified a 98-acre tract of land across which it sought rights for a 50-foot easement.[1] After reviewing the Brazoria County real property records, KMCC could not identify all owners of record of the 98-acre tract. Thus, KMCC named several known and unknown parties as defendants, including Mayberry, the unknown heirs of T. L. Smith, W. P. Womack, and the estate of Alice Grovey[2]-all of whom KMCC alleged may own, possess, or claim some interest in the 98-acre tract. KMCC asserted that it provided the requisite paperwork to the defendants and that the defendants rejected its bona fide offer to purchase an interest in the property.[3]

         KMCC sought appointment of special commissioners to schedule a hearing and assess damages occasioned by condemning the property.[4] The trial court appointed three special commissioners, who notified Mayberry and the other defendants, including the unknown defendants via publication, of the hearing to assess damages.[5] Mayberry appeared at the special commissioners' hearing. After hearing evidence and argument, the special commissioners signed an award assessing damages of $13, 043 for condemnation of the easement over the 98-acre tract. In June 2013, KMCC deposited $13, 043 into the court's registry.[6]

         Subsequently, on June 7, 2013, Mayberry filed an objection and answer in which he denied KMCC's condemnation claims and objected to the special commissioners' award.[7] Tex. Prop. Code § 21.018. Mayberry alleged that the condemnation award was inadequate to compensate him for his interest in the property and that the special commissioners "failed to apply the correct measure of damages in determining the adequate compensation" to which he was entitled.

         The court set the matter for trial in early 2016. Mayberry filed an amended answer against KMCC on the day of trial.[8] Mayberry alleged that KMCC's pipeline "extend[ed] far beyond just the . . . 98 acre tract." Importantly, Mayberry expressly stated he had no interest in the 98-acre tract.

         Mayberry also filed a trial brief in support of a motion to dismiss, although the motion to dismiss is not contained in our record. In his brief, Mayberry again clearly disclaimed any interest in the 98-acre tract at issue by stating "[t]he only persons with an interest in the Subject property are the Heirs of TL Smith. [Mayberry] is neither an Heir of TL Smith nor did he own any of their property interest at the time of the filing of this action."

         KMCC filed a bench memorandum "concerning proof of standing as a predicate to offering evidence." KMCC asserted that Mayberry had "failed to provide any evidence of a vested interest in the [98-acre tract] through discovery or otherwise, be it by deed, mortgage note, county record, or other property ownership document." KMCC argued that because Mayberry had not established "an identifiable, personal stake in the Property, or in this litigation, " he lacked standing to seek any affirmative relief or recover any portion of the commissioners' award.

         At the beginning of the bench trial on March 7, 2016, the trial court inquired whether Mayberry had any interest in the 98-acre tract KMCC sought to condemn: "Let me ask you this. Is [Mayberry] claiming any ownership interest in the 98 acres that are the subject matter of this condemnation?" Mayberry's trial counsel explained that Mayberry had an interest in a larger, 600-acre tract, known as the Morris Tract, in which this 98-acre tract allegedly was contained, but stated that Mayberry had "no interest" in the land described in KMCC's petition.

         After these discussions, the trial court called the condemnation proceedings to trial, and Mayberry ...


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