Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
KEVIN WAGENSCHEIN AND KIM GORDON, AS CO-TRUSTEES OF THE WAGENSCHEIN FAMILY TRUST II, KENNETH BUELTER, AND CAROL EDWARDS, Appellants,
VIOLA L. EHLINGER, ERNA W. MUELLER, VICTOR H. WAGENSCHEIN, JANE CRAWFORD, AND VICKI WAGENSCHEIN, Appellees.
appeal from the 267th District Court of DeWitt County, Texas.
Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Longoria and Perkes
Gregory T. Perkes Justice.
dispute concerns the construction of a mineral interest
reservation included in a 1989 warranty deed. The trial court
denied appellants' motion for summary judgment but
granted appellees' motion for summary judgment. By two
issues, appellants argue on appeal that (1) the reservation
in the 1989 warranty deed created a tenancy in common as
opposed to a joint tenancy; and (2) alternatively, if the
interest created by the reservation in the 1989 deed is a
joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, a conveyance to
the Wagenschein Family Trust II (Trust II) severed the joint
tenancy. Appellees, by a single cross-point, contend that
appellants are barred from making their arguments under the
doctrine of quasi estoppel. We affirm.
Edward Wagenschein and Marie Range Wagenschein owned a
241.69-acre tract of land located in DeWitt County, Texas.
They had seven children: Viola Ehlinger, Erna W. Mueller,
Victor H. Wagenschein, Clara Mae Binz, Paul E. Wagenschein,
Frieda W. Buelter, and Norman O. Wagenschein (Wagenschein
Heirs). Following their parents' deaths, the seven
Wagenschein Heirs inherited the subject property and executed
a warranty deed in 1989 conveying the surface and mineral
estates to Harvey H. Mueller and Jane W. Mueller. The deed
included the following reservation:
THERE IS HEREBY RESERVED AND EXCEPTED from this conveyance
for Grantors and the survivor of Grantors, a reservation
until the survivor's death, of an undivided one-half
(1/2) of the royalty interest in all the oil, gas and other
minerals that are in and under the property and that may be
produced from it. Grantors and Grantors' successors will
not participate in the making of any oil, gas and mineral
lease covering the property, but will be entitled to one-half
(1/2) of any bonus paid for any such lease and one-half (1/2)
of any royalty, rental or shut-in gas well royalty paid under
any such lease. The reservation contained in this paragraph
will continue until the death of the last survivor of the
seven (7) individuals referred to as Grantors in this deed.
2006, the Muellers executed an oil, gas, and mineral lease
with Trinity Energy Services, L.L.C., who then assigned the
lease to Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc. (Pioneer). Clara
died in 2009, leaving Dwight Binz and appellant Carol Edwards
as her heirs. In 2010, Pioneer drilled and began production
on its first well on the property. The surviving Wagenschein
Heirs each signed division orders, accepting and receiving
their respective shares of what would have been Clara's
died in 2011, leaving his children, appellees Vicki
Wagenschein and Jane Crawford, as heirs. Paul died in 2012.
However, prior to his passing, Paul conveyed his interest to
appellants Kevin Wagenschein and Kim Gordon, who, in turn,
conveyed that interest to the Trust II. Frieda died in 2014,
leaving appellant Kenneth Buelter as her sole heir. After
each death, Pioneer distributed the decedent's interest
by signed division orders to the then-surviving Wagenschein
Heirs. Like appellees, Pioneer interpreted the reservation as
providing a joint tenancy with right of survivorship.
2015, appellants filed their original petition for
declaratory relief. Specifically, they sought a judicial
the reservation in the Deed created in the Wagenschein Heirs,
in equal shares as tenants in common, a life estate pur
autre vie in one-half (1/2) of the royalty, bonus,
rental and shut-in payments under any existing or future oil
and gas lease covering the property, to be enjoyed by the
Wagenschein Heirs and their successors and assigns until the
death of the last surviving Wagenschein Heir.
also sought reformation along the same lines and attorney
fees. In their amended petition, appellants alternatively
sought "a judicial declaration that even if the deed
created a joint tenancy, the joint tenancy as to [Paul's]
interest was severed by [Paul's conveyance]."
subsequently filed their first amended original answer and
counterclaim. In their pleading, they generally denied
appellants' allegations and pleaded the affirmative
defenses of estoppel, waiver, limitations, ratification, and
unclean hands, unjust enrichment, or contribution. In
addition, they counterclaimed for a declaration that:
the Pioneer interpretation of the deed is correct and that
the surviving defendants own, collectively, 1/3 each of the
reservation and that the reservation in question is held by
defendants as joint tenants with the right of survivorship
with the reservation to terminate and revert to grantees in
the 1989 deed upon the death of the last of the original
grantors to die.
filed a traditional motion for summary
judgment. Appellants argued that (1) they are the
successors to undivided interests in the royalty and bonus in
the property that should have passed to them through
inheritance and that (2) appellees wrongfully claimed such
royalty and bonus interests are held in joint tenancy.
Appellants sought a summary judgment declaring that the
interests in royalty and bonus at issue in this case are
inheritable in a tenancy in common.
filed a response to appellants' motion for summary
judgment and a cross-motion for summary
judgment. Appellees sought a summary judgment
declaring that "the reservation in the deed in question
creates a life estate in favor [of] the surviving grantors .
. . ." They further contended that appellants are
estopped from bringing their claims because ...