United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
STACEY ODDO, a FEMME SOLE and JOHN BURKLAND ET UX., Plaintiffs,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court in this property dispute is Defendant Union Pacific
Railroad Company's (“Union Pacific”) Motion
for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) [Doc. # 54].
Plaintiffs filed a response,  and Union Pacific
replied. The Motion is ripe for decision. Based on
the parties' briefing, relevant matters of record, and
pertinent legal authority, the Court grants
Union Pacific's Motion.
lawsuit is a property dispute between two landowners and
Defendant Union Pacific. The relevant properties are five
adjacent tracts located in Seabrook, Texas. Of the five
properties, three are owned by Plaintiff Stacey Oddo (the
“Oddo Tracts”) and two are owned by Plaintiff
John Burkland (the “Burkland Tracts”). Plaintiffs
acquired all the relevant properties during and prior to
single right-of-way, the Seabrook Industrial Lead, crosses
all five properties. Ownership of the right-of-way has
changed multiple times since it was conveyed in the 1890s.
Most recently, Union Pacific acquired it in 1998. In August
2017, Union Pacific transferred its interest in the Seabrook
Industrial Lead to the Texas Department of Transportation
brought this lawsuit in Texas state court on September 16,
2017.Union Pacific timely removed to federal
court based on diversity jurisdiction on November 3,
their Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Union
Pacific lacked a valid interest in the right-of-way running
over their properties to transfer to TXDOT. Plaintiffs
contend that the right-of-way through their properties was
destroyed when one of Union Pacific's railroad
predecessors demolished a railway station in contravention of
the relevant right-of-way grants. Plaintiffs bring claims to
quiet title and for declaratory judgment, seeking the right
of way declared invalid and vesting full title in
Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs further assert a claim for
trespass, alleging Union Pacific and its predecessors
exceeded the permissible scope of the right-of-way by
unlawfully granting underground easements to pipeline
companies, and by granting leases or licenses to non-railroad
third parties to occupy the surface of the easement.
April 17, 2019, after the close of discovery, Union Pacific
moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs three claims.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, “[a] party may move
for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or
the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment
is sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment on a
claim or part of a claim is appropriate “if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Seacor Holdings, Inc. v. Commonwealth Ins.
Co., 635 F.3d 675, 680 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting
asserting that certain facts cannot be genuinely disputed
“has the initial responsibility of informing the court
of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of
the pleadings and materials in the record, if any, which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of
material fact.” See Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co.
v. Cardona, No. 7:16-CV-448, 2017 WL 2999272, at *1
(S.D. Tex. Apr. 20, 2017) (citing Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). See also
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). The moving party, however,
“need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's
case.” Coastal Agric. Supply, Inc. v. JP Morgan
Chase Bank, N.A., 759 F.3d 498, 505 (5th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d
536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). Instead, the moving party may meet
its burden by pointing out “the absence of evidence
supporting the nonmoving party's case.”
Malacara v. Garber, 353 F.3d 393, 404 (5th Cir.
2003). If the moving party meets this initial burden, the
burden shifts to the nonmovant to set forth specific facts
showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. See
Brandon v. Sage Corp., 808 F.3d 266, 270 (5th Cir. 2015)
(citing Bayle v. Allstate Ins. Co., 615 F.3d 350,
355 (5th Cir. 2010)). “The court need consider only the
cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the
record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).
Pacific seeks summary judgment on Plaintiffs' three
claims: (1) quiet title, (2) declaratory judgment, and (3)
trespass. Union Pacific first argues the Court should reject
Plaintiffs' attempt to have Union Pacific's
right-of-way over Plaintiffs' properties declared
invalid. Union Pacific contends that this attempt fails as a
matter of law because the relevant right-of-way conveyances
impose covenants, not conditions, whose breach cannot cause
termination of the easements. Union Pacific further contends
Plaintiffs' trespass claim is time barred because it was
brought outside of the applicable two-year statute of
Pacific's positions are persuasive. The Court therefore
grants summary judgment on ...