Face Challenges Confidently

027 Luckel v. White

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Richard F. Brown

The following is not a legal opinion. You should consult your attorney if the case may be of some significance to you.
Luckel v. White, 792 S.W.2d 485 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1990, n.w.h.), is another Texas case resolving one of the many conflicts in early printed conveyances. These conveyances were drafted on forms or in a format which gave the scrivener the opportunity to put different fractions in the various provisions of the conveyance. The court held that the deed transferred a fixed 1/32nd royalty interest by the language in the granting clause, even though the “future lease” clause purported to grant 1/4th of any royalties due under any future leases.
The granting clause of the deed provided “[Grantors] . . do hereby grant . . . an undivided one-thirty-second (l/32nd) royalty interest in and to the following described property, . . .” Other portions of the deed which referred to the interest transferred were: (1) the habendum clause which confirmed the “l/32nd royalty forever”; (2) the warranty provision which referred to the “l/32nd royalty” interest granted; and (3) the “future lease” clause (which reserves to the grantor executive leasing rights and rights to certain payments) which granted 1/4 of any royalties due under any future leases. A new lease was executed which provided for a 1/4th royalty.
The controversy arose from the fact that the future lease clause could be read to entitle the grantee to a different royalty interest than that which is conveyed to him by the granting clause. However, for many years the customary landowner’s royalty was a 1/8th reservation. This practice was so common that the courts had judicial knowledge that the usual royalty provided in mineral leases was a 1/8th reservation. The court stated that it found it to be a reasonable inference that the parties to the Mayes-Luckel deed intended for all future leases to have a reservation of the usual and customary 1/8th landowner’s royalty. The court thus first based its holding on finding that the grantor’s intent, as a matter of law, was to convey a 1/32nd royalty.
There are also numerous Texas mineral cases which have held that when there is a discrepancy between the interest specified in the granting clause and the interest designated in other provisions of a deed, the interest defined within the granting clause is that which was intended to be conveyed. The leading Texas case of Alford v. Krum, 671 S.W.2d 870 (Tex. 1984), was cited in particular. The court then extended the reasoning in the Alford case (involving minerals) to the royalty deed in question. If the granting clause and the future lease clause could not be harmonized to divine the intent of the grantor, then they were in conflict and the granting clause would prevail. Either way, a 1/32nd royalty was conveyed.