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What does a Supreme Court ruling mean for Texas property owners?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Real Estate Disputes |

The U.S. Supreme Court has made several controversial rulings lately. One case that didn’t get much nationwide media coverage was watched closely in East Texas. 

It involves property owners near Houston who say that work done by the state on Interstate 10 – specifically, erecting a concrete barrier — made their property susceptible to repeated flooding and caused substantial damage when Hurricane Harvey hit the area in 2017. About 120 people have been seeking compensation from the state since 2020 under a lawsuit filed by a cattle rancher who saw his ranch flooded. 

The plaintiffs claimed that the state had violated their Fifth Amendment rights. While most people associate the Fifth Amendment with the right against self-incrimination, it’s also the amendment that addresses eminent domain. Specifically, it protects property owners from having their land taken by the government for public use without compensation.

Case must be decided under state law

Lower courts disagreed over whether this was a Fifth Amendment case or not, and whether it belonged in state or federal court, which is how it ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court, in a rare unanimous decision, sided with the Texas property owners. 

The court ruled that Texas authorities needed to hear the case under state law. The Texas Attorney General’s Office had agreed to do that in arguing before the high court.

Texas AG still claims victory

Both sides called this a win. While it’s certainly a victory for the property owners, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also called it a win. He said, “I’m pleased the Supreme Court agreed with us unanimously that citizens should sue under Texas law.” The plaintiffs have said they were always willing to do that but were stymied by the state.

Whether you own a cattle ranch or a condo, it’s crucial to know your rights as a property owner under both Texas state law and federal law. Protecting them can be a challenge – especially if you’re going up against the state government. Having experienced legal guidance can make all the difference.


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