Accommodation doctrine does not apply in severed groundwater estate case

The City of Lubbock, Texas v. Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC, 07-14-00006-CV (Tex. App. – Amarillo, June  17, 2014).

This is an interlocutory appeal from the issuance of a temporary injunction which prohibited the City from taking action in furtherance of its proposed well field plan. The Amarillo Court of Appeals reversed the injunction.

The City developed a well field plan for development of property owned by Coyote Lake Ranch (“Coyote”). Coyote sued and the trial court entered an injunction prohibiting the City from proceeding with any test hole drilling or water well drilling without consulting Coyote first, erecting power lines, or mowing. The City appealed.

The court first determined the record does not support any other legal theory upon which the trial court’s order could be upheld requiring consulting Coyote on potential impacts to the surface except under the accommodation doctrine. The doctrine is based on the concept of the due regard with which the dominant mineral estate owner must exercise his rights to use the surface as those rights relate to the servient surface estate owner’s rights. The principal behind this doctrine is “to balance the rights of surface and mineral owners to use their respective estates while recognizing and respecting the dominant nature of the mineral estate.” After an analysis of the different relationships, the court ultimately held the doctrine should not apply to the relationship between the owners of the severed groundwater estate and the surface estate in such a way as to alter the manner in which the groundwater estate owner may use the surface.  As a result, the trial court abused its discretion in granting the injunction.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.  Panel: Justice Quinn, Justice Campbell and Justice Hancock.  Opinion by Justice Hancock. The attorney for the City is Jeff Hartsell.  The attorneys listed for Coyote Lake are C. Brantley Jones and Marvin W. Jones.