The Texas Supreme Court is hearing oral argument on Tuesday, February 15th in two cases: City of Dallas v. Stewart, No. 09-0257 (docket and briefs) (a takings case involving the City’s demolition of a house determined to be a nuisance) and Jefferson State Bank v. Lenk (asking what liability a bank has for paying out estate funds to someone posing as the estate administrator).

The Court was originally scheduled to hear argument in In re Allied Chemical Corp., et al., No. 09-0264 (docket and briefs) about discovery orders in a complex toxic tort. That argument has been rescheduled and a motion to abate is pending.

Takings claim for demolishing a house already determined to be a public nuisance

City of Dallas v. Heather Stewart, No. 09-0257 (docket and briefs)

Here is the summary issued by the Court’s public-information officer:

The issue in this takings claim over a house the city demolished as a nuisance is whether res judicata or collateral estoppel attaches to a final determination by a legislatively created, quasi-judicial board. In this case the Urban Rehabilitation Standards Board declared Stewart’s house a nuisance after years of standing vacant and in disrepair. As Stewart appealed the standards board’s nuisance determination to the trial court, the city demolished the house under authority granted by Local Government Code chapters 54 and 214. Stewart then pressed an unconstitutional-takings claim, arguing the city took her property without fair compensation. In response the city pleaded that the takings claim depended on relitigating the standards board’s nuisance finding, but Stewart failed to appeal that specifically to the trial court. After a trial, a jury found the city had unconstitutionally taken Stewart’s property and awarded damages. The trial court rejected the city’s res judicata defense. The court of appeals affirmed.

Bank liability when an imposter withdraws estate funds

Jefferson State Bank v. Christina C. Lenk, No. 09-0269 (docket and briefs)

Here is the summary issued by the Court’s public-information officer:

Principal issues in this case involving estate funds paid to an imposter administrator are (1) whether a bank can rely under the Probate Code on fraudulent administration letters to give the imposter administrator access to the decedent’s account without liability and (2) whether the bank’s making bank statements available started time running to bar any action on an unauthorized transaction. In this case an administrator for two estates sued for money a onetime Bexar County probate clerk took from the estates using fraudulent letters of administration. The bank argues that the letters were “facially valid” and protected it from liability and bank statements were given by a receiver to the court-appointed administrator more than a year before she demanded payment from the bank. The bank contends that her payment demand was beyond the Uniform Commercial Code’s one-year repose period. The trial court granted summary judgment for the bank. The court of appeals reversed.