TWA joins legal brief to support property owners

The Texas Wildlife Association has joined a legal brief to the Texas Supreme Court in support of a South Texas, TWA-member ranch family and the rights of private rural landowners in Texas.

TWA joined the South Texans’ Property Rights Association and six other Texas organizations on July 23 in asking the Texas Supreme Court to reverse a decision of the Fourth Court of Appeals at San Antonio and affirm the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the ranch family. The group also asked the Court to reaffirm the constitutional stature of private property ownership rights and protections, which cannot be lost to the increased threats posed by unchecked illegal operations inside the U.S. border.

This case centers on rights and duties of private rural landowners in Texas. Respondents are heirs and representatives of three illegal immigrants from Mexico who were killed when the smuggler’s truck in which they were concealed crashed on the Jones Ranch in Brooks County. Seeking recompense, Respondents assert wrongful death and survival actions, seeking damages on theories of negligence and gross negligence against the Jones Ranch and their employee.  

The Jones Ranch and their employee moved for summary judgment in the 79th Judicial District Court of Brooks County. The motions were granted by the Honorable Richard C. Terrell. Respondents appealed the judgment to the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio. The court of appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings.

The legal brief supported by TWA states the Fourth Court of Appeals erred in creating a new common law duty on landowners to protect or prevent injury to third persons who might be injured in the course of smuggling operations on the landowner’s property.

“The decision of the Fourth Court of Appeals threatens the bedrock of private lands in Texas and in so doing, imperils those that own and operate the ranchlands of South Texas. The implications of the appellate court’s decision, however, extend far beyond South Texas, creating new, previously nonexistent duties for all private property holders in Texas, as well as eliminating long-standing protection found in the unlawful acts rule. The legal and policy issues in this case are timely and significant to Texas jurisprudence, and the Amici Curiae invite this Court to consider these issues,” states the brief, filed by attorney James D. Bradbury of Austin.

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