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Texas Supreme Court Declines To Disrupt Mineral Ownership Based On New Tort

Last week, the Supreme Court “giveth and taketh away” in a case involving the sale of a ranch, critically including subsurface mineral interests.  Specifically, in Kinsel v. Lindsey, the Court clarified that it has not recognized a cause of action for tortious interference with an inheritance.  While leaving the issue open for future consideration, the Court, citing its opinion in the minority shareholder case of Ritchie v. Rupe, 443 S.W.3d 856 (Tex. 2014), and after taking a host of factors into consideration, found “no compelling  reason to consider a previously unrecognized tort” because the Plaintiffs were awarded an adequate remedy—the imposition of a constructive trust.

In reviewing the propriety of the trial court’s imposition of a constructive trust, the Court acknowledged its prior finding that a “breach of a special trust or fiduciary relationship or actual or constructive fraud is ‘generally’ necessary to support a constructive trust," but reaffirmed its finding in Pope v. Garrett, 211 S.W. 2d 559 (Tex. 1948), that “the specific instances in which equity imposes a constructive trust are numberless—numberless as the modes by which property may be obtained through bad faith and unconscientious acts.”

So while the Texas Supreme Court still has not specifically recognized the tort of tortious interference with an inheritance, it has affirmed the imposition of constructive trusts under varying fact situations where property is obtained by bad faith or bad acts.