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Cook v. Nissimov

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

July 16, 2019

CHARLES W. COOK, LEVI WATSON, JESSICA WATSON, JOE BLAIR ROWTON, JAMIE LOUIS ROWTON, AND CHARLES TOWNSEND, Appellants
v.
RONEN NISSIMOV, NATALIA NISSIMOV, AND BRIAN BLALOCK, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 12th District Court Grimes County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 33, 436

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Bourliot and Poissant

          MAJORITY OPINION

          Margaret "Meg" Poissant Justice.

         Appellants Charles W. Cook, Levi Watson, Jessica Watson, Joe Blair Rowton, Jamie Louis Rowton, and Charles Townsend appeal from the trial court's orders denying their motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment in favor of appellees Ronen Nissimov, Natalia Nissimov, and Brian Blalock. We affirm.

         Background

         This dispute centers on the rights to use a roadway easement through a gated subdivision known as Tierra Buena - North ("the Subdivision"). A rough sketch below shows the Subdivision, the Northern Lots, and the Access Easement.

         (Image Omitted)

         I. The Access Easement

         In 2009, appellant Charles Cook and the Bousquet Family Limited Partnership entered into an agreement with Ralph McKnight regarding a 130-acre tract in Grimes County known at the time as "Stagecoach Crossing." [1] This 130-acre tract would later be subdivided and would become the Tierra Buena North Subdivision at the center of this dispute. McKnight owned a non-exclusive right to a 60-foot easement ("Access Easement") that could be used to access the Subdivision. McKnight assigned to Cook, his heirs and assigns, the non-exclusive right to use the easement. The agreement noted that Cook owned an additional 450 acres adjoining and to the north of the Subdivision's 130 acres. With regard to the additional land, the agreement stated that, "In the event that Cook decides to subdivide this 450 acres, or any part thereof, and to use the aforementioned easement for access to said 450 acre tract, Cook agrees to impose the minimum deed restrictions . . . of [the Subdivision]."

         II. The Subdivision Lots

         Cook subdivided the 130 acres and sold the lots in the Subdivision. Blalock and the Nissimovs were two of the buyers. The deeds conveyed:

Tract EIGHT (8), [2] TIERRA BUENA NORTH, a subdivision in Grimes County, Texas according to the plat thereof recorded in Vol. 1318, page 747, Real Property Records of Grimes County, Texas; together with rights of ingress and egress over and across the roadway easement described in the Agreement dated March 31, 2009, executed by and between Charles W. Cook, Thomas G. Bousquet, The Bousquet Family Limited Partnership, LTD and Ralph McKnight, recorded in Vol. 1300, page 89, Real Property Records, Grimes County, Texas.

         Each deed contained the following "Exceptions to Conveyance and Warranty":

a) Validly existing easements, rights-of-way, and prescriptive rights, whether of record or not;
c) Those building lines and easements reflected on the Plat of TIERRA BUENA NORTH filed in Vol. 1318, Page 747, of the Real Property Records of Grimes County, Texas.

         III. The Northern Lots

         After Cook sold lots to appellees in the Subdivision, he subdivided the 450-acre northern property and sold unplatted lots north of the Subdivision ("Northern Lots"). Cook sold lots to appellants Levi Watson, Jessica Watson, Joe Blair Rowton, Jamie Louis Rowton, and Charles Townsend. When Cook sold those lots he purported to grant access to the lots across the Subdivision using the 60-foot Access Easement.

         The sale of the Northern Lots and grant of access across the Access Easement led to the probability that the purchasers of the Northern Lots would be granted access to the private gated subdivision. Cook understood that he could grant access to the easement as long as the deed restrictions on the Northern Lots were the same or similar to those on the Subdivision lots.

         IV. ...


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