Cleaver v. Cundiff

203 S.W.3d 373 (2006)

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Cleaver v. Cundiff

Texas Court of Appeals
203 S.W.3d 373 (2006)

LJ

Facts

Charles Cundiff (plaintiff) owned property that was landlocked. Cundiff accessed his property through Road 195-P, which ran through the adjacent property. Kenneth and Cynthia Cleaver (defendants) purchased the adjacent property and locked the gate on Road 195-P, thereby preventing Cundiff’s access through their property. With no other means of exiting his property, Cundiff had to drive over rough land, remove a neighboring fence, and drive through a neighbor’s pasture. Cundiff filed suit against the Cleavers, asserting that he held an easement by estoppel. The Cleavers challenged this contention, arguing that use alone was insufficient to create an easement by estoppel. The Cleavers also asserted that they were bona fide purchasers who purchased the land in good faith for valuable consideration and without notice of the easement. At trial, testimony established that the sole purpose of Road 195-P was to provide access to the residence that was now Cundiff’s. The Cleavers’ predecessor in interest testified that the property had been in the family since 1927 and that although there were several locks on the gate, he had never possessed a key. The Cleavers acknowledged that prior to purchasing the property, they had observed a vehicle driving along Road 195-P to the home on the adjacent property but did not make any further inquiry. The jury found an easement by estoppel in favor of Cundiff. The jury also found that the Cleavers were bona fide purchasers. However, the trial court judge disregarded the jury’s finding regarding the bona-fide-purchaser status and held in favor of Cundiff. The Cleavers filed an appeal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wright, C.J.)

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