Friday, April 17, 2015

A trespass to try title action is what?


The Texas Property Code provides in part, "A trespass to try title action is the method for determining title to lands, tenements, or other real property." TEX. PROP. CODE ANN. § 22.001(a) (West 2014).


"To prevail in a trespass-to-try-title action, a plaintiff must usually (1) prove a regular chain of conveyances from the sovereign, (2) establish superior title out of a common source, (3) prove title by limitations, or (4) prove title by prior possession coupled with proof that possession was not abandoned." Wilhoite v. Sims, 401 S.W.3d 752, 760 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2013, no pet.).

SOURCE: DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS - No. 05-13-01581-CV - 1/21/2015

In Coinmach Corp. v. Aspenwood Apartments Corp., 417 S.W.3d 909, 926 (Tex. 2013), the supreme court stated as follows:

We have previously held that, when "the trespass-to-try-title statute governs the parties' substantive claims . . ., [the plaintiff] may not proceed alternatively under the Declaratory Judgments Act to recover their attorney's fees." Martin v. Amerman, 133 S.W.3d 262, 267 (Tex. 2004). In so holding, we noted that the Legislature has provided the trespass-to-try-title statute as "the method of determining title to . . . real property," and the Legislature did not provide for attorney's fees in such actions. Id. (citing TEX. PROP.CODE § 22.001(a)) (emphasis added).. . . .

It is undisputed that the present case requires determination of the parties' possessory rights to the property. We see no legitimate basis to distinguish this case from Martin, in which we affirmed and upheld the Legislature's intent that chapter 22 of the Texas Property Code govern the resolution of disputes involving legal interests in real property.

Id. (emphasis original); see also Sani v. Powell, 153 S.W.3d 736, 745 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2005, pet. denied) (stating "[a]ny suit that involves a dispute over the title to land is, in effect, an action in trespass to try title, whatever its form" and attorney's fees pursuant to the declaratory judgments act "are not available in a suit to quiet title or to remove cloud on title"). Although both sides in the case before us couched their claims in terms of requests for declarations, everything requested of the court is necessary to, and a component of, the ultimate relief sought, which is to clear title to the front strip.[12] See Sani, 153 S.W.3d at 746. Accordingly, we conclude the Furnisses were not entitled to an award of attorney's fees under the declaratory judgments act and the trial court abused its discretion by awarding those fees. Id.; see Coinmach Corp., 417 S.W.3d at 926; XTO Energy, Inc., 357 S.W.3d at 62-63 (concluding that although validity of deed was contested, essence of suit was title dispute and therefore award of attorney's fees pursuant to declaratory judgments act was improper); see also RIHR Inc., 308 S.W.3d at 454.

We decide in ADLO's favor on its fifth issue.


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