Billboard company unable to establish trespass to try title claim

 

Lamar Advantage Holding Company v. The City of Stephenville and Mark Kaiser, in his official capacity as City Administrator 11-14-00133-CV (Tex. App- Eastland, June 9, 2016)

This is a trespass to try title suit filed against the City of Stephenville and Mark Kaiser, in his official capacity as City Administrator. The City owns a tract of property upon which Lamar Advantage Holding Company maintains billboards. Lamar contends that it has a right to possess the property where the billboards are located by virtue of a ten-year lease it executed in 2007. The City contends Lamar’s leasehold interest expired in 2011.  Lamar filed a declaratory judgment action against the City seeking a declaration of the parties’ rights under the 2007 lease. Lamar subsequently amended to in include a claim for trespass to try title claim. The City defendants filed a plea to the jurisdiction which the trial court granted.

The trespass to try title claim was brought against the City administrator in his official capacity and not truly against the City. [Comment: The City maintains immunity for a trespass to try title claim normally.]  The key to Lamar’s claim is that the successor deed reserved the right to lease billboards within the deed itself, thereby granting superior title to the leasehold. After analyzing the deed language, the court held “…that this reference … to a single lease does not constitute a reservation of future leasing rights.”  Nowhere does the deed purport to reserve from the conveyance any future right to lease the property for billboard purposes. The deed is controlled by the parties’ objective intent as expressed in the document, not their subjective intent. Given this interpretation as a matter of law, the City defendants conclusively established superior title and the right to possess the property, thereby negating the jurisdictional basis for Lamar’s claim. The plea was properly granted.

To read the opinion click here. Attorneys for Lamar Advantage Holding Company are Daniel P. Tobin, J. Allen Smith and Bradley E. McLain. Attorneys for the City Defendants are Wayne K. Olson, Judge Blake B. Thompson and Fredrick Fritz Quast.