Court of Appeals Upholds Substandard Building Demolition

Wood v City of Texas City

This is a public nuisance/substandard building case in a city utilizing a Buildings and Standards Commission. Wood owned, among many others, two properties in Galveston County which he purchased at a foreclosure sale. Following Hurricane Ike, Wood was faced with the task of repairing storm-induced damage on many of his properties.  These two properties in Chelsea Manor were admittedly on his low priority list as they were unlikely to produce rental income once repaired. As a result, Wood did nothing to them and they slid deeper and deeper into disrepair.  The City put Wood on notice they were substandard and needed repair.  After a hearing before the Buildings and Standards Commission, the Commission found the properties substandard, were a public nuisance, and ordered their demolition.  Wood sued in district court challenging the demolition orders and brought takings claims in the same suit.  The testimony demonstrated both properties were in pretty bad (and I mean bad) shape. The Trial court noted the properties were attractive and public nuisances and authorized demolition.  Wood appealed.

This case begins its analysis citing to City of Dallas v. Stewart, 361 S.W.3d 562, 569 (Tex. 2012) and holding that a city does not commit a taking when it abates a nuisance. The court went through a rather long analysis and came to the conclusion the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court’s ruling of a nuisance.  Therefore the “takings” claims were dismissed.  The analysis is a good one to pull from when going through the standards of review to apply in this type of case. The court also gave specific examples of the factual information which supported the determination of a nuisance. This case is a good one to demonstrate a logical connection between a lot of bad facts (for Wood) and how they equate to nuisances and affect public health and safety. The court went on to hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the demolition or in overruling a motion for new trial.

Other than providing a lot of detail as to exactly how run down these properties were (which was interesting to read) and that the court started out its analysis with Stewart, there is nothing earthshattering or major about this case. However, it does provide a good starting point for briefing when you have to argue about what constitutes a nuisance and what you should consider trying to establish in front of a court or commission.

If you wish to read this opinion, please click here.