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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Gladys Meynig conveyed property (the property) in a Galveston-area subdivision to Marion McKenzie by quitclaim deed on Sept. 23, 1995. An inspection at the time of the conveyance did not reveal anyone occupying “the property or any improvements on it.” Meanwhile, J.C. McKnight had transferred by warranty deed 12 acres of land, which included the same property Meynig purportedly transferred to Marion McKenzie, to Bradford Kilpatrick on Feb. 10, 1994. The 12 lots traced back to the original subdivision plat in 1985. Kilpatrick moved a camper and a bus onto a portion of the property. Though he didn’t live there, he stayed there occasionally, he set up a power pole and stored materials on adjacent land. Kilpatrick did not fence off the property from the adjacent land, nor otherwise attempted to segregate the parcels. McKenzie gave written notice to everyone, including Kilpatrick, who claimed any record interest in the property. Kilpatrick soon moved a house onto the property. McKenzie told Kilpatrick that his title to the property was invalid. Then, on Aug. 9, 2000, Marion McKenzie transferred the property, to her husband, Randall McKenzie. The McKenzies filed a trespass-to-try title suit against Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick’s response included an claim to the property by limitations. Kilpatrick also filed a countersuit for the value of the improvements he added after he received notice of the McKenzies’ title. In a bench trial, the trial court ruled for the McKenzies, including within its findings of fact that Randall McKenzie was the record holder of the property and that the record title to the property “is traced back to the sovereign by a regular chain of conveyances.” The trial court referred to an 11-step chain of title, starting with a grant by the state to a Jones Shaw. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. The court examines the chain of title the trial court relied on and notices several discrepancies. For instance, the court finds no evidence to support the first to links in the chain � the state’s grant to Jones Shaw and a subsequent “judgment” dividing three lots of that grant to W.C. Patton (no date was given). W.C. Patton transferred the property to G.W. Hines in April 1911, but the court reiterates that the McKenzies have not shown how their record title extends to before 1911. Even if they could trace their title back to pre-1911, the court finds several other discrepancies. The property described in four links along the chain of title do not match the same property at issue now. The court reminds the McKenzies that it was their burden to prove a prima facie right to title and possession; it is the strength of their title, not the weakness of Kilpatrick’s title that is important. The court adds that where a defendant such as Kilpatrick has shown he was in possession of the property at issue and the a plaintiff such as the McKenzies failed to establish their prima facie right to title, judgment must be entered for the defendant. “Although this rule is a harsh one,” the court notes, “it has been the law in Texas for more than a century.” The trial court adds that even if the McKenzies had established a regular and continuous chain of conveyances dating back to 1911, that would not be enough to establish their current right to the property. “Because the record does not contain a deed or conveyance of the disputed property from the sovereign to W.C. Patton nor any other testimony or evidence explaining this disruption in title, we cannot conclude that the McKenzies satisfied their burden of proving their title back to the sovereign. The McKenzies cannot satisfy this burden by emphasizing the gaps and imperfections in Kilpatrick’s title, even though the trial court found several weaknesses in Kilpatrick’s claim to title to the Property.” OPINION:Frost, J.; Hudson, Frost and Seymore, J.J.

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