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Encinas v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso

June 22, 2018


          Appeal from the 83rd District Court of Pecos County, Texas (TC# 7336)

          Before McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Hughes, JJ.



         Appellant Myrta Caballero Encinas appeals from a final judgment entered in favor of Billy Wayne Jackson, Appellee. We affirm the trial court's judgment.


         In 2009, Jackson and Encinas entered into a verbal agreement regarding Encinas' lease of a commercial laundry business and property from Jackson, and the parties understood that Encinas would attempt to purchase the business and property from Jackson. At the time the parties entered into the verbal lease agreement, Jackson had a mortgage or loan on the property with the Pecos County State Bank (the bank). For reasons of expediency, under the terms of the verbal lease agreement, the parties agreed that Encinas would pay the bank directly and would also be responsible for paying property taxes.

         In 2011, Encinas executed an agreement to purchase the business for $231, 000.00 but was unable to secure financing for that purpose. Despite her inability to obtain financing, Encinas agreed that the verbal lease agreement with Jackson remained in effect.

         On February 20, 2013, the parties executed a commercial lease agreement which provided, "This lease is a written confirmation of the previous agreement made between Billy Jackson (hereinafter 'Landlord') and Myrta Encinas (hereinafter 'Tenant') in 2009, when Tenant assumed lease, and still honored by both parties currently." In the written lease agreement, Encinas agreed as Tenant to make timely monthly payments of $2, 600.00 to the bank, and to "be responsible" for all taxes during the lease, from "2009 to current." The written lease agreement states that Encinas is aware that the business is for sale, and reserved to Jackson the right to sell the business if Encinas is unable to secure funding for the purchase. Encinas never purchased the business and property.

         Jackson learned that Encinas had failed to pay the property taxes for 2009-2014 when Pecos County filed suit against him in an effort to recover $16, 000.00 in delinquent property taxes.[1]Jackson resolved the lawsuit by paying Pecos County $16, 000.00. Jackson also became aware that Encinas was in arrears on the payments to the bank in the sum of $8, 000.00 when the bank president called him. Jackson immediately went to the bank and wrote a check in the amount of $8, 000.00 to satisfy the note payments.

         On February 25, 2014, Jackson and Encinas entered into an agreement whereby Encinas agreed to repay Billy and Jeri Sue Jackson the 2009-2014 delinquent property tax plus court fees in the sum of $16, 000.00 as well as the delinquent note payments in the sum of $8, 000.00. Under the terms of the agreement, Encinas was to make payment of $24, 000.00 in full before the close of business on March 21, 2014. Encinas never paid Jackson this sum, and no evidence was provided showing that she paid to Jackson any portion of that sum. Jackson eventually secured a purchaser for the business and property, and assisted Encinas in removing her personal items from the premises.

         Jackson filed suit against Encinas asserting breach of contract and conversion, and sought recovery of damages including those for unpaid property taxes, unpaid monthly bank installments, and loss of value of personal property. Encinas counterpleaded causes of action for conversion, breach of duties and gross negligence, fraud and fraudulent inducement, breach of contract, and civil theft and sought damages and other relief.

         Both Jackson and Encinas filed motions for partial summary judgment. During the final hearing, counsel referenced the trial court's prior partial summary judgment hearing, but no record of those proceedings, nor any other order regarding partial summary judgment, have been included in the record on appeal.

         However, in its final judgment signed on March 7, 2016, the trial court recites that on August 4, 2015, it entered its interlocutory partial summary judgment in favor of Jackson after examining the pleadings and evidence before it, determined that no genuine issues of material fact existed, found that Encinas breached the commercial lease agreement when she failed to pay $16, 000.00 in property taxes, and failed to timely pay Pecos County State Bank the sum of $8000.00 during the term of the lease agreement. Based on these findings, the trial court determined as a matter of law that Jackson is entitled to a judgment of $24, 000.00 on those issues.

         The final judgment also recites that "[t]hereafter, on this day a trial was held on the remaining issues raised by the Defendant . . . regarding conversion of personal property." The trial court ruled that judgment should be rendered for Jackson on the controverted facts, and awarded judgment for Jackson and against Encinas in the sum of $16, 000.00 as reimbursement for unpaid property tax payments that Jackson paid, and ...

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