Town entitled to enforce mediation agreement against property owner over sand dispute

Doyle Wells, Sea Oats Investments I, L.P. f/k/a Lamkin Properties Limited Partnership, and Quixote Dunes, Inc. v. Texas Department of Transportation and Town of South Padre Island, 13-15-00175-CV (Tex.App— Corpus Christi, February 2, 2017)

This is a takings case involving allegations the City took sand from the Plaintiff’s property without due process or just compensation. However, this opinion focuses on a subsequent settlement and its enforceability.

Wells purportedly owns various properties along Park Road 100 on South Padre Island. The Texas Department of Transportation (“TxDOT”) maintains Park Road 100, including keeping the roadway clear of sand.  Wells filed suit against the Town of South Padre Island (“SPI” or “Town”) and TxDOT alleging TxDOT removed sand from his property adjacent to the Road and transported it to SPI beaches. The Town filed a summary judgment asserting, amongst other things, that it only provided trucks via a subcontractor and did not actually remove or take anything.  After granting the Town’s motion (which was interlocutory), the trial court ordered the parties to mediation.  At mediation the parties settled and sign the mediated settlement agreement (“MSA”).  However, one month later Wells withdrew his consent asserting it was not a knowing and willful consent. The Town counterclaimed to enforce the MSA and filed an additional summary judgment motion.   The trial court denied the Town’s enforcement motion, but severed the case so the original MSJ could become final. The parties appealed and cross-appealed.

The central issue for the appeal is the Town’s right to enforcement of the settlement agreement. SPI produced conclusive evidence to establish a valid contract. The terms of the MSA state that in consideration of $10,000 paid by SPI to Wells within twenty-one days Wells agreed to execute a full and final release and would dismiss SPI with prejudice. The MSA states it is enforceable as a Rule 11 agreement. Wells did not establish the lack of an essential term (i.e. the ownership disposition of the sand) as his own affidavit states the ownership interest was transferred to TxDOT, not the Town. So the Town could not agree on the ownership of property it does not own. Second, despite Wells’ complaints about his own counsel, he signed the MSA and the Town conclusively established it complied with the terms by tendering payment by the deadline. As a result, the trial court should have granted the summary judgment motion on the Town’s counterclaim.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The Panel includes Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Benavides, and Justice Hinojosa. Justice Benavides delivered the opinion of the court. To see the docket page with attorney information click here.