Face Challenges Confidently

063 Mobil Pipe Line Co. v. Smith

Tuesday, September 8th, 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.
Mobil Pipe Line Co. v. Smith, 860 S.W.2d 157 (Tex. App.–El Paso 1993, no writ), considers what right an owner of a pipeline right-of-way has to enter upon farmland and lay a pipeline when there is no agreement with, but objection from, the tenant who farms the land under the lease. In 1989, Smith began farming under a lease from his aunt. In 1993, the aunt granted Mobil a pipeline easement. Smith refused to let Mobil come on the land and was upheld by the trial court.
Held: Reversed and remanded for a determination of the surface damages due. Smith. Even when the fee owner leases the surface, the fee owner retains a right to enter into agreements that will affect the surface. The fee owner, as the owner of the minerals, has the dominant estate, and as such, the owner of the right-of-way granted by her has the dominant estate. The surface tenant is only entitled to recover damages which result from an interference with the tenant’s right to possession of the surface. The tenant, Smith, can only recover for crop damages and cannot stop Mobil from exercising its easement rights.
The case is significant because it is the only case ever ruling on the rights of the surface tenant in opposing the exercise of a pipeline easement. Although the case is remanded to the trial court for a finding as to the amount of the damages, it is silent as to whether Mobil or the aunt must pay. In this case it will obviously be Mobil because the aunt is not a party.