Severance v. Patterson, et al. (Majority)Annotate this Case
Pursuant to article V, section 3-c of the Texas Constitution and Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 58.1, the court accepted the petition from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to answer three certified questions. The central issue in this case was one of first impression: whether private beachfront properties on Galveston Island's West Beach were impressed with a right of public use under Texas law without proof of an easement. The court concluded that land patents from the Republic of Texas in 1840, affirmed by legislation in the New State of Texas a few years later, conveyed the State's title in West Galveston Island to private parties and reserved no ownership interests or rights to public use in Galveston's West Beach. Texas law had not otherwise recognized such an inherent limitation on property rights along the West Beach. Accordingly, there were no inherent limitations on title or continuous rights in the public since time immemorial that served as a basis for engrafting public easements for use of private West Beach property. Although existing public easements in the dry beach of Galveston's West Beach were dynamic, these easements did not spring or roll landward to encumber other parts of the parcel or new parcels as a result of avulsive events. New public easements on the adjoining private properties could be established if proven pursuant to the Open Beaches Act, Tex. Nat. Res. Code 61.001(8) or the common law.