Monday, November 25, 2013

Friendswood Development Co. v. Smith-Southwest Industries, Inc. case brief

Friendswood Development Co. v. Smith-Southwest Industries, Inc. case brief summary
576 S.W.2d 21 (Tex. 1978)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Appeal from judgment of Court of Civil Appeals, Harris County, First District (Texas), which reversed trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in case where plaintiffs alleged that defendants caused severe subsidence of plaintiffs' lands through defendants' withdrawal of underground water.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiffs, landowners, brought suit alleging that defendants' withdrawal of underground waters from wells on defendants' lands caused severe subsidence of plaintiffs' lands. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendants. The appeals court reversed, holding that plaintiffs stated a cause of action in nuisance and negligence.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed appellate court and affirmed judgment of trial court. 
  • The court rejected American rule of reasonable use, under which the right of a landowner to withdraw underground water from his land was limited to amount necessary for reasonable use of his land. 
  • The court applied English rule of absolute ownership, under which a landowner had right to withdraw waters from his land without liability for damage to neighbor's land in the absence of waste or malice. 
  • The court acknowledged the harshness of the English rule, but stated that stare decisis should be strictly followed in cases involving established rules of property rights.
CONCLUSION
The court reversed appellate court and affirmed judgment of trial court, holding that English rule of absolute ownership, not American rule of reasonable use, should have been applied to the case.

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