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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:South Texas Water Authority (STWA) constructed a water-transmission line from the city of Corpus Christi to furnish treated water to municipal and industrial customers in a portion of South Texas and in 1981 entered into a contract with the city of Kingsville for that purpose. Lomas and Citizens for Water Acquired Through Equal Rates (WATER) contended that the rates charged under the contract were excessive and discriminatory, causing Kingsville ratepayers to bear a disproportionate percentage of the operating expense of service compared to users residing in other municipal districts that STWA services. Lomas and WATER asserted standing as third-party beneficiaries of the water-supply contract, claiming the contract was intended to provide a direct benefit to the citizens of Kingsville. WATER additionally asserted associational standing, and both Lomas and WATER contended that they had standing to bring suit as consumers and taxpayers. Finding neither plaintiff had standing, the trial court granted summary judgment in STWA’s favor. The 13th Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding that Lomas had individual standing to pursue monetary and declaratory relief, WATER had associational standing to pursue declaratory relief, and both parties had standing as third-party beneficiaries of the water-supply contract. STWA appealed. HOLDING:Reversed and dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Texas Supreme Court first noted a presumption against conferring third-party-beneficiary status on noncontracting parties. In deciding whether a third party may enforce or challenge a contract between others, the court stated that it is the contracting parties’ intent that controls. In this case, the court stated, the water-supply contract provides that STWA agrees to sell, and the city of Kingsville agrees to purchase, water under the contract’s terms and conditions. The contract does not mention Lomas, WATER or residents of the city of Kingsville in general other than to specify the water’s intended use for sale to municipal and industrial customers. It is true, the court stated, that the Legislature, in creating STWA as a conservation and reclamation district, intended generally to benefit the people of this state, as presumably it intends with all legislation. But general beneficence does not create third-party rights, the court stated. Neither Lomas nor WATER is entitled to sue under general standing principles, the court stated, because they cannot point to a particularized interest in a conflict distinct from that sustained by the public at large. WATER additionally asserted associational standing on behalf of its members. To meet the first requirement of associational standing, WATER must show that its members have standing to sue in their own right. As neither Lomas nor any other WATER member has demonstrated individual standing to contest the water-supply contract, the court found that WATER lacked associational standing to sue on behalf of its members. OPINION:Per curiam.

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