Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
ROBBINS RANCH SUBDIVISION HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION AND WILLIAM A. RHYNE, ET UX, INDIVIDUALLY, Appellants
PARTNERS OF BENCHMARK PROPERTIES, L.P., ET AL, Appellees
from the County Court at Law No. 2 of Gregg County, Texas
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
Ranch Subdivision Homeowner's Association (Robbins Ranch)
and William Rhyne, et ux, Individually (Rhyne) appeal the
trial court's grant of a directed verdict in favor of
Partners of Benchmark Properties, L.P. (Benchmark). We
is the developer of the Robbins Ranch Subdivision, Phase 2,
in Gregg County, Texas. Benchmark is a limited partnership.
The general partner is Benchmark Properties, L.C., and the
limited partners are Henry Boswell, III and Robert Farrell.
Boswell and Farrell are also members of Farrell and Boswell
Realty, L.C. (Farrell and Boswell Realty), a real estate
firm. In that capacity, Boswell and Farrell each hold
broker's real estate licenses.
and his wife purchased a lot in the subdivision from
Benchmark. The unimproved property contract lists Rhyne and
his wife as the purchasers and Benchmark as the seller. It
also identifies Farrell and Boswell Realty as the
seller's real estate broker. The contract states that
membership in the property owner's association is
mandatory and the buyer agrees to be bound by the Declaration
of Restrictions, Covenants, and Conditions. Those
Declarations state that the private road shown on the
subdivision plat shall be owned and maintained by Robbins
Rhyne purchased the property, a dispute arose as to the
condition of the private road. According to Robbins Ranch and
Rhyne, the road is of "questionable standards" and
the use of the road by oilfield vehicles has compromised the
road's surface. They alleged that the road's
condition impacted home values and the enjoyment of the
subdivision by the members of Robbins Ranch. Benchmark
contended that Robbins Ranch is responsible for maintaining
the road. When an agreement could not be reached, Robbins
Ranch and Rhyne sued Benchmark, Chinn Exploration, Inc., and
Trivium Operating L.L.C. Their petition included causes of
action for fraud by non-disclosure, breach of formal and/or
informal fiduciary relationship, breach of implied warranty,
and violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA)
against Benchmark. They also alleged Chinn was liable for
breach of contract and nuisance and that Trivium was liable
for nuisance. Prior to trial, Chinn obtained a summary
judgment dismissing the breach of contract claim. Robbins
Ranch and Rhyne withdrew the causes of action for fraud by
non-disclosure and breach of implied warranty.
trial, following the presentation of evidence, the trial
court granted a directed verdict on the fiduciary duty and
nuisance causes of action. The jury found in favor of
Benchmark on the DTPA claim, and the trial court entered
judgment in accordance with the jury's
verdict. This appeal followed.
their sole issue, Robbins Ranch and Rhyne contend the trial
court erred when it granted Benchmark's motion for
directed verdict. Specifically, they argue legally sufficient
evidence was presented that Benchmark owed Robbins Ranch a
formal or informal fiduciary duty.
reviewing the grant or denial of a directed verdict, an
appellate court follows the standards for assessing the legal
sufficiency of the evidence. Hunter v. PriceKubecka,
PLLC, 339 S.W.3d 795, 802 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, no
pet.). This requires a determination of whether there is any
evidence of probative force to raise a fact issue on the
question presented. Id. In reviewing the legal
sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the fact finding, crediting favorable
evidence if reasonable persons could, and disregarding
contrary evidence unless reasonable persons could not.
Id. A directed verdict is proper if a party fails to
present evidence raising a fact issue essential to the right
of recovery or if the party either admits or the evidence
conclusively establishes a defense to the cause of action.
Id. A reviewing court may affirm a directed verdict
even if the trial court's rationale for granting the
directed verdict is erroneous, provided the directed verdict
can be supported on another basis. Id.