X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The Bowdle Trust is a Texas inter vivos trust with its principal place of business in Denton County. Bonnie Lynn Whiteis resides in Wichita County, and William C. Armor Jr. lives is Martin County, Fla. The Bench Family Trust is a Colorado inter vivos trust with its principal office in Denver, Colo. These parties, who are overriding royalty interest owners of a unitized carbon dioxide pool in Colorado, sued several companies associated with Mobil Oil and Shell Oil in Denton County probate court to recover alleged underpaid carbon dioxide royalties. Shell, who does not have any principal offices in Denton, and Mobil filed a plea to the jurisdiction and motions to transfer venue to Harris County. The defendants also claimed that the two non-Texas plaintiffs were improperly joined. The probate court denied the motions without stating its reasons. Defendants argue on appeal that the probate court erred by denying their motions to transfer venue of the claims of the Bench Family Trust, Whiteis and Armor because they did not independently establish proper venue in Denton County and their joinder in the Bowdle Trust suit was improper. Mobil also contends that the order denying the motions to transfer venue is void because the probate court has no subject matter jurisdiction over the claims of the Bench Family Trust, Whiteis and Armor. In a cross-point, plaintiffs contend that the interlocutory appeals should be dismissed for mootness and lack of jurisdiction, or, alternatively, abated and the case remanded to the probate court for clarification. HOLDING:Vacated in part; dismissed in part. The case is on rehearing, which the court dismisses as moot. The former Civil Practice & Remedies Code �15.003(c) (amended since this suit commenced) allowed an interlocutory appeal from a ruling allowing or disallowing joinder of a plaintiff who cannot independently establish venue. Neither the Bench Family Trust, Whiteis, nor Armor pleaded any venue facts to independently establish that venue in Denton County was justified. Because the probate court denied the defendants’ motion to transfer venue, the court necessarily determined that the parties did in fact satisfy the venue requirement. Therefore, the appellate court has jurisdiction over the defendants’ appeal. The court further agrees with Mobil that the probate court’s ruling on invention and joinder should be vacated and dismissed because the probate lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the joined parties’ claims. “[A] trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction is never presumed and cannot be waived. Our jurisdiction over the merits of an appeal extends no further than that of the court from which the appeal is taken. Thus, if the trial court lacked jurisdiction, we only have jurisdiction to set the trial court’s judgment aside and dismiss the cause.” Probate courts have concurrent jurisdiction with district courts in actions involving inter vivos and charitable trusts in Texas. Under the former Trust Code �115.001(a), the district court has jurisdiction with respect to a charitable or inter vivos trust t 1. construe a trust instrument; 2. determine the law applicable to a trust instrument; 3. appoint or remove a trustee: 4. determine the powers, responsibilities, duties, and liability of a trustee; 5. ascertain beneficiaries; 6. make determinations of fact affecting the administration, distribution, or duration of a trust; 7. determine a question arising in the administration or distribution of a trust; 8. relieve a trustee from any or all of the duties, limitations, and restrictions otherwise existing under the terms of the trust instrument or of this subtitle; 9. require an accounting by a trustee, review trustee fees, and settle interim or final accounts; and 10. surcharge a trustee. None of the claims alleged by the plaintiffs fall within one of these categories. The court declines to extend jurisdiction to any matter “concerning trusts.” as that would bring any action involving a trustee into the probate court’s jurisdiction. OPINION:Cayce, C.J.; Cayce, C.J., Walker and Day, JJ. DISSENT:Walker, J. “This court does not possess jurisdiction to review the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction in a joinder appeal brought under former civil practice and remedies code section 15.003.” Also, the majority’s review of the defendants’ subject matter jurisdiction complaints is tantamount to a review of the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ pleas to the jurisdiction.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.