Face Challenges Confidently

123 Kilgore v. Black Stone Oil Co.

Thursday, September 3rd, 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.
Kilgore v. Black Stone Oil Co., 15 S.W.3d 666 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 2000, pet. filed), considers the application of the doctrine of stare decisis to a boundary dispute. In Kilgore, the plaintiffs asserted that they owned mineral interests in the Escobeda League in Polk County and sued the defendants for conversion of gas that the plaintiffs argued belonged to them. Plaintiffs based their claim on an alleged conflict between the Escobeda League and three other surveys. Defendants argued that the appellate court case of W. T. Carter & Bro. v. Collins had determined in 1916 that there was no conflict between the surveys, and although the parties in Kilgore did not claim under the parties in Collins, they were bound under the doctrine of stare decisis.
The Beaumont Court of Appeals noted that there are two divergent concepts regarding the application of stare decisis to boundary lines – the orthodox doctrine and the unorthodox approach. The orthodox doctrine provides that stare decisis applies only to questions of law. Once the Texas Supreme Court squarely decides a legal question, the decision is precedent, binding the Supreme Court and all other lower courts, when the identical question is raised in a later suit between different parties. Some courts of appeals have adopted the unorthodox doctrine of stare decisis and concluded that a fact issue determination – such as the fixing of boundary lines, headright surveys, or other fixed real property markers – may be binding precedent under the doctrine of stare decisis. Under the unorthodox doctrine, a prior ruling regarding the location of a boundary line will control the location of the same line in a second case, even though the first case turned upon an issue of fact or the legal questions raised in the first case are not those of the second case.
The Beaumont Court of Appeals in Kilgore applied the unorthodox doctrine and resolved all issues of conflicts between the Escobeda League and the other surveys, because the Collins Court had ruled that there was no conflict between the Escobeda League and the other surveys. The Court in Kilgore was also persuaded by the longstanding rule that real property issues should remain settled once an appellate court has ruled.
The significance of the case is that appellate courts in Texas will not reopen issues involving boundary disputes if the boundary has been previously judicially resolved.