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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Appeals court rules in favor of pipeline company in Brazoria County condemnation case

By Karen Kidd | Jan 22, 2018

HOUSTON – A Texas appeals court ruled against a man in a Brazoria County condemnation case for lacking standing because - as he freely admits - he lacks an interest in property seized by a pipeline company.

Lyndon Mayberry admitted since his case's earliest days that he doesn't have an interest in the property. He also claimed the property had not been properly described in Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate's condemnation petition.

On Jan. 18, the 14th Court of Appeals overruled Mayberry's challenges to a 412th District Court ruling in 2016 that he lacked standing to challenge Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate's condemnation petition.

"Mayberry's lack of standing related to the condemnation proceeding is dispositive of this appeal," said the appeals court's memorandum opinion signed by Justice Kevin Jewell. "We overrule Mayberry's issues challenging the trial court's conclusion that he lacked standing and affirm the trial court’s judgment without reaching his remaining issues."

The property in question is a 50-foot easement within 98 acres that Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate identified in its condemnation petition, according to information in the court's memorandum opinion. Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate claimed it needed a permanent easement to build a common-carrier pipeline through the property in Brazoria County.

According to the opinion, Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate was not able to identify all owners of record in the 98-acre tract, so named as defendants known and unknown parties, including Mayberry. Three special commissioners appointed by the trial court notified Mayberry and other defendants of a hearing to assess damages in the condemnation proceeding. Mayberry attended the hearing, during which commissioners awarded a little more than $13,000 in damages for condemnation of the easement.

Mayberry filed an objection in June 2013 in which he denied Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate's condemnation claims and objected to the commissioners' award, alleging the award was inadequate. Trial was set for early 2016 and Mayberry filed an amended answer, alleging the Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate pipeline extended "far beyond" the 98 acre tract.

"Importantly, Mayberry expressly stated he had no interest in the 98-acre tract," the memorandum opinion said.

"Mayberry also filed a trial brief in support of a motion to dismiss, although the motion to dismiss is not contained in our record. In his brief, Mayberry again clearly disclaimed any interest in the 98-acre tract at issue by stating '[t]he only persons with an interest in the Subject property are the Heirs of TL Smith. [Mayberry] is neither an heir of TL Smith nor did he own any of their property interest at the time of the filing of this action'.”

Mayberry also asserted "in various trial court filings" and during the trial that the trial court lacked jurisdiction case because he was the "wrong defendant" and that the property had been "improperly described" in Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate's petition.  

In its final judgment handed down in June 2016, the trial court found that Mayberry failed to prove he had ownership interest in the property.

In his appeal filed the following October, Mayberry challenged the trial court's judgment condemning the Brazoria County property in favor Kinder Morgan Crude & Condensate. Mayberry asserted he had constitutional standing, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction and that the condemnation proceeding was unconstitutional.

In its memorandum opinion, the appeals court said Mayberry failed to establish ownership "or other compensable interest" in the property at the date of the taking. 

"A taking occurs on the date when the condemnor lawfully takes either actual possession by physically entering the land or constructive possession by the deposit of the commissioners' award," the memorandum opinion said.

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State of Texas 14th Court of Appeals