Appeal from the 269th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-61262
consists of Justices Christopher, Jewell, and Hassan.
question before us is whether a pipeline easement's
right-of-way to transport "oil or gas" is limited
to "crude petroleum," or alternatively whether the
easement also permits transportation of the refined petroleum
products gasoline and diesel. The trial court held the latter
interpretation applied and granted summary judgment in the
easement holder's favor on the landowner's claims for
breach of contract, trespass, and declaratory judgment. The
landowner appeals, asserting that the easement's terms
oil or gas mean only crude oil.
reasons explained below, we agree with the trial court that
those terms are not so limited, and we affirm the summary
judgment in the easement holder's favor.
facts are undisputed. Appellant Texan Land & Cattle II,
Ltd. ("TLC") owns a tract of real property in
Harris County. Appellee ExxonMobil Pipeline Company
("ExxonMobil") owns a pipeline easement across
TLC's property. ExxonMobil's easement rights arise
from a December 1919 "right-of-way deed" that
granted ExxonMobil's predecessor, Humble Oil Company, the
right of way to lay, maintain, operate, and remove a pipeline
for the "transportation of oil or gas" across
TLC's property. The easement does not define oil or gas.
has been transporting gasoline and diesel through the
pipeline since at least 1995. TLC sued ExxonMobil, claiming
that ExxonMobil was exceeding its rights under the easement.
TLC sought an injunction, damages for trespass and breach of
contract, and declaratory relief.
parties moved for summary judgment and disputed the meaning
of the terms oil and gas as contained in the easement.
According to TLC, those terms granted ExxonMobil the right to
transport only "crude oil" or "crude
petroleum" but not refined products. ExxonMobil, on the
other hand, argued that the terms oil and gas, as used in
pipeline easement agreements from the early 20th century,
include refined products like gasoline and diesel. The
parties do not dispute that gasoline and diesel are refined
trial court denied TLC's motion, granted ExxonMobil's
motion, and signed a take-nothing judgment in
ExxonMobil's favor. TLC appeals.
of Review on Summary Judgment
review a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary
judgment de novo. Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Assoc.,
Inc., 556 S.W.3d 274, 278 (Tex. 2018). To prevail on a
traditional motion for summary judgment, the movant must show
that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P.
166a(c). When both parties move for summary judgment on the
same issues and the trial court grants one motion and denies
the other, we consider the summary judgment evidence
presented by both sides, determine all questions presented,
and, if we determine that the trial court erred, render the
judgment the trial court should have rendered. Tarr,
556 S.W.3d at 278. We may affirm if any of the theories
presented to the trial court and preserved for review are
meritorious. Joe v. Two Thirty Nine Joint Venture,
145 S.W.3d 150, 157 (Tex. 2004); Haro v. Universal
Underwriters Ins. Co., 162 S.W.3d 661, 662 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, pet. denied).
single issue, TLC challenges the summary judgment in
ExxonMobil's favor. The dispositive question, the parties
agree, is the meaning of oil and gas as used in the easement.
According to TLC, a Commission of Appeals decision and
certain statutes of roughly the same era as this easement
specifically define "oil" to mean only crude
petroleum, and those definitions control over secondary
sources- such as dictionaries and other reference materials
relevant to the oil and gas industry-in discerning the
meaning of undefined easement terms. ExxonMobil responds that
TLC's primary authority does not support its position,
that TLC's arguments disregard traditional contract
interpretation principles, ...