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Magness v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 10, 2019

John MAGNESS, Appellant
v.
Sheppard BAKER, Appellee

          From the 83rd Judicial District Court, Val Verde County, Texas Trial Court No. 32335 Honorable Robert Cadena, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Beth Watkins, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SANDEE BRYAN MARION, CHIEF JUSTICE

         John Magness appeals a summary judgment in favor of Sheppard Baker declaring all leases Magness purported to have on property owned by Baker to be void and unenforceable. Magness presents four issues on appeal contending the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motion to enforce a settlement agreement; (2) not allowing him to amend his pleadings; (3) not allowing him to redraft his affidavit; and (4) granting summary judgment. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         On January 13, 2016, Magness filed a petition in district court seeking a declaratory judgment asserting Baker had breached a "verbal lease" allowing Magness to hunt and fish on Baker's property in Val Verde County. Baker filed an answer containing a general denial and asserting the affirmative defense of statute of frauds, contending any alleged verbal lease was unenforceable under the statute of frauds. Baker also filed a counter-claim against Magness asserting the parties entered into a 2010 limited written lease agreement for fishing and a 2011 limited written lease agreement for hunting, and Magness breached both leases. Baker requested a declaratory judgment that Magness breached the written lease agreements. Baker also noted in his answer that he had filed a separate suit for forcible detainer that was pending in the justice court.

         On July 2, 2016, after a "couple of days" of trial in justice court on Baker's forcible detainer suit, the parties announced they had reached a settlement. Magness's attorney announced on the record before the court that the settlement was "the mutual dismissal of the respective lawsuits that have been brought by the parties against each other," including both the forcible detainer action and the claims filed in district court, and a mutual release. After an off-the-record-discussion, the attorneys went back on the record to discuss Baker's intentions to retract and cancel some leases and powers of attorney he signed during the course of the litigation. The record then reflects the following:

THE COURT: Okay. So, as I understand it, you're going to negotiate a whole new lease?
MR. JOHNSON [Magness's attorney]: We're going - yeah, we're going to -
MR. STERN [Baker's attorney]: We're going to do a - we're going to make some amendments so that neither one can kick the other off the property - okay - and, also, so that Mrs. Magness - maybe through corporate structure or whatever y'all want to do - so she's protected somehow in case something happens to her husband.
MR. JOHNSON: The two 99-year leases for the hunting and fishing are intact; but the terms and conditions, we're going to modify and change so they'll be in accordance with the parties' wishes now.
Anything else, Mr. Stern?
MR. STERN: No. I think that's it.
MR. JOHNSON: Well, thank you again very much for helping us ...

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