SHARON BROOKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ANN C. BROOKS, Appellant
DALE A. BINGER, JR., JOSEPH HUNTER, BILL WATKINS, ANDMARSHA WATKINS, Appellees
Appeal from the 239th District Court Brazoria County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 78706-CV
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Zimmerer and
Thompson Frost, Chief Justice.
appeal, trespass-to-try-title plaintiffs ask this court to
consider whether the trial court erred in admitting an
alleged contract for deed and in concluding that the
defendant proved that he holds title to the real property.
Finding any such error harmless because the plaintiffs did
not conclusively prove their right to title and possession
under any of the four methods available in a
trespass-to-try-title context, we affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
in 1964, B2 Towing Company, Inc. was a Texas
corporation until it was dissolved in 1988. B2
Towing has not been reinstated.
Brooks was the majority owner of B2 Towing. Claude
and his wife Ann were the parents of five children-Sharon
Brooks, Christopher Brooks, David Brooks, Alan Brooks, and
Robert Brooks. Laquita Binger worked for B2 Towing
and was the mother of Darren Binger and appellee/defendant
Dale A. Binger, Jr.
2014, B2 Towing, the dissolved corporation, as
well as "Sharon Brooks, Individually and as
Administrator [sic] of the Estate of Ann C. Brooks,
Deceased," purportedly filed the original petition that
initiated this lawsuit. In this petition, the plaintiffs
asserted a trespass-to-try-title claim against Dale seeking a
determination of title as to certain real property located at
322 County Road 99 in Alvin, Texas (the
one month later, "Sharon Brooks, Individually and as
Administratrix of the Estate of Ann C. Brooks,
Deceased," filed a First Amended Petition, in which
B2 Towing, the dissolved corporation, did not
assert any claims or act as a plaintiff. Sharon later filed a
Second Amended Petition, which was the live petition at trial
and when the trial court rendered judgment. In that petition,
the term "Plaintiffs" is defined as "Sharon
Brooks, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of
Ann C. Brooks, Deceased" (the "Plaintiffs").
The Plaintiffs allege that Sharon "represents all of the
other heirs of Ann C. Brooks, namely, David Brooks, Robert
Brooks, and Alan Brooks," although the Plaintiffs do not
allege that any of these three men are a plaintiff in this
case. The Plaintiffs allege that in 1974 Claude owned a
majority of the shares in B2 Towing and that the
other shareholders were Claude's five children as well as
Laquita and her son Darren.
live petition, the Plaintiffs asserted a
trespass-to-try-title claim against Dale seeking a title
determination as to the Property. But B2 Towing,
the dissolved corporation, did not assert any claims or act
as a plaintiff. The Plaintiffs added appellees/defendants
Joseph Hunter, Bill Watkins, and Marsha Watkins as defendants
and asserted claims against them and Dale for slander of
title and for filing a fraudulent lien. The Plaintiffs
alleged that the "Plaintiffs, standing in place of the
majority shareholders of [B2 Towing] are the
lawful majority owners of the [Property]." The
Plaintiffs attached to the live petition a copy of a 1976
deed filed in the Brazoria County Real Property Records in
which Olin G. Wellborn, Jr. purportedly conveys the Property
to B2 Towing (the "Deed").
witness at trial testified that the Brazoria County Real
Property Records contain no instrument in which B2
Towing purports to convey the Property to any party. Evidence
at trial showed that Dale has lived on the Property since at
least 1983. Dale alleged that in 1983, Dale and Claude, as
Trustee for Robert, allegedly executed a one-page contract
for deed (the "Contract"), under which Claude, as
Trustee for Robert, promised to execute a deed for the
Property to Dale if Dale performed all obligations under the
1994, Claude died testate. His wife Ann was the independent
executrix, and she filed an inventory that did not reflect
any ownership in the Property as an asset of Claude's
estate. In 1998, Laquita died. In 2004, Christopher died. In
2009, Dale borrowed money to pay off a property-tax judgment
on the Property. In 2011, Ann died testate. Sharon was the
executrix of Ann's estate, and Sharon filed an inventory
that did not reflect any ownership in the Property as an
asset of Ann's estate. In 2014, Dale signed a deed of
trust (the "Deed of Trust") to secure payment of
the indebtedness he incurred to pay off a property-tax lien
on the Property.
bench trial, the trial court rendered a final judgment
ordering that the Plaintiffs take nothing. In the judgment
the trial court denied all claims in the live petition and
awarded title to the Property to Dale, free and clear of all
of the Plaintiffs' claims. At the Plaintiffs'
request, the trial court issued findings of fact and
conclusions of law.
B2 Towing Not A ...