Face Challenges Confidently

351 Simpson v. Curtis

Friday, September 4th, 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.
Simpson v. Curtis, 351 S.W.3d 374 (Tex. App.—Tyler 2010, no pet.), held that neither the statute of frauds nor the doctrine of merger would bar reformation of a deed entered into by mutual mistake or scrivener’s error.  Grantor entered into an earnest money contract to sell land to Grantee.  The parties used a title company to draft the deed.  The parties intended to reserve the mineral estate to Grantor, but the deed did not include the reservation.  Two years after conveying the land, Grantor discovered that the deed did not include the mineral reservation.  At trial, the draftsman stated that her failure to include the reservation clause was a scrivener’s error.   Grantee contended that the doctrine of merger and the statute of frauds prevented the introduction of the contract and testimony varying the terms of the deed.
Because both parties were under the mistaken belief that the deed followed the earnest money contract provision and [the draftsman] admitted to the scrivener’s error, we conclude that there was a mutual mistake by the parties. . . .  The merger doctrine applies to deeds only in the absence of fraud, accident, or mistake. . . .  In an equitable action to reform an instrument that fails to express the real agreement due to mutual mistake, parol evidence is admissible to show the true agreement. . .  Further, the statute of frauds is not an impediment to the introduction of parol evidence to establish an agreement for a mineral interest in an action for reformation based on mutual mistake.
Accordingly, the court order reformed the deed to include the reservation as stated in the contract.   The case follows precedent on the exception to the parol evidence rule.