Face Challenges Confidently

144 Moore v. Energy States, Inc.

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 significance to you.
Moore v. Energy States, Inc., 71 S.W.3d 796 (Tex. App.– Eastland 2002, pet. denied), applies the strip-and-gore doctrine, estoppel by deed and the appurtenances doctrine in a deed construction case. At issue was a small strip of land containing ten to twenty-five acres located between a railroad right-of-way and a public road. The deed in question recited that the entire tract conveyed was located “South of the T. & P. Ry. Co. right of way and South of the Public road which lies immediately south of said T. & P. Ry. Co. right of way.” Plaintiffs sought to recover for drainage from the contested strip.  Defendants prevailed on summary judgment.
The judgment was affirmed on three grounds. Under the strip-and-gore doctrine, a narrow strip of land adjoining a conveyed tract which ceases to be of use after the conveyance will be presumed to be included in the conveyance, unless the grantor explicitly reserves the strip in plain and specific language. Moreover, when a deed conveys land abutting a street, public highway, or railroad right-of-way, title to the center of the street, public highway, or railroad right-of-way also passes by the deed. The court held that any land which might lie between the two rights-of-way was not expressly reserved, and therefore the doctrine of strip-and-gore applied.
Because the deed recited that the public road “lies immediately south” of the railroad right- of-way, the plaintiffs were estopped from denying that the public road lies immediately south of the railroad right-of-way. Estoppel by deed precluded any claim to title to land between the public road and the railroad.
The deed also granted all “rights and appurtenances thereto.” The court held that “appurtenances” would include the public road and railroad rights-of-way.
The case is a reminder of some of the general rules of deed construction when there are small strips and parcels of land which are not expressly described in a conveyance. The general thrust of the case law is that no small strip should be left behind, so if the intent is to carve out such tracts, the deed must be very clear.