Texas Riparian Rights & Texas Class Action law

Land Use Lawyer Austin Texas

Mar 16, 2013 — by Jeff Mundy
Tags: Land Use

Because the State owns the riverbeds and the minerals underneath the riverbeds in Texas, the boundary of the riverbed is critical in determining the rights of the State, riparian mineral interest owners, and riparian surface owners. See TEX. PARKS & WILD. CODE § 1.011(c); see also TEX. NAT. RES. CODE §§ 11.041(a)(1), 51.011 (providing that the Permanent School Fund includes the mineral estate in riverbeds).

 

II. Class Action Certification Under Rule 42

A class action is an extraordinary procedural device designed to promote judicial economy by allowing claims that lend themselves to collective treatment to be tried together in a single proceeding. See generally Ford Motor Co. v. Sheldon, 22 S.W.3d 444, 452--53 (Tex. 2000) (discussing the origination and purpose of the class action device). Because Rule 42 is patterned after Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, federal decisions and authorities interpreting current federal class action requirements are instructive. Sw. Ref. Co. v. Bernal, 22 S.W.3d 425, 433 (Tex. 2000). There is no right to litigate a claim as a class action under Rule 42. Id.

Rule 42 establishes four initial prerequisites to class certification: numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. See TEX. R. CIV. P. 42(a). In addition to Rule 42(a)'s prerequisites, a proposed class action must satisfy at least one of the three subdivisions of Rule 42(b). TEX. R. CIV. P. 42(b). A trial court must apply a rigorous analysis to determine whether Rule 42's certification requirements have been satisfied. Bowden, 247 S.W.3d at 696. The class representatives argue that the court of appeals erred in holding that the conflicts identified by the trial court prevent the class representatives from establishing Rule 42(a)(4)'s adequacy-of-representation prerequisite. We agree.

Rule 42(a)(4)'s adequacy-of-representation prerequisite requires the proponent of class certification to establish that the class representative will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. TEX. R. CIV. P. 42(a)(4); Bowden, 247 S.W.3d at 707 ("The class representative has the burden of proving adequacy."). "[A] class representative whose interests conflict with the interests of other class members may not adequately represent a class." State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Lopez, 156 S.W.3d 550, 556 (Tex. 2004). The existence of minor conflicts standing alone, however, will not prevent a class representative from adequately representing a class. See Valley Drug Co. v. Geneva Pharms., Inc., 350 F.3d 1181, 1189 (11th Cir. 2003). For a conflict of interest to prevent class certification under Rule 42(a)(4), the conflict must be fundamental and go to the heart of the litigation. See Gunnells v. Healthplan Servs., Inc., 348 F.3d 417, 430--31 (4th Cir. 2003); see also In re K-Dur Antitrust Litig., 686 F.3d 197, 223 (3d Cir. 2012) ("Only a fundamental conflict will defeat adequacy of representation."). A conflict that is merely speculative or hypothetical will not defeat the adequacy-of-representation requirement. See Gunnells, 348 F.3d at 430. We address each of the conflicts identified by the trial court in turn.

 

Riemer v. Texas, (Tex. 2013)

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