Texas landowners face a heavy burden in bringing claims for damages arising out of inherently undiscoverable damages to mineral estates because the statute of limitations starts at the time of injury rather than the time of discovery. Previously, courts adopted the discovery rule as an exception to the statute of limitations, effectively stalling the starting point of the statute of limitations. A two-pronged threshold inquiry is held before the application of the discovery rule. First, the court must determine if the injury is inherently undiscoverable or not detected despite the use of due diligence. Secondly, there must be objectively verifiable evidence or evidence corroborated without need for opinion or discretion. If both requirements are fulfilled, the statute of limitations will begin to run at the moment of discovery rather than at the moment of injury. In HECI, the Texas Supreme Court acknowledged the lessee did owe royalties to the lessor after being awarded monetary damages in a suit over the lessor’s minerals. The Court, however, ruled that a subsurface injury is not inherently undiscoverable to a layperson, even though they must hire additional support, because of publicly available Railroad Commission records. These records are acknowledged by the Court as confusing and are not evidence of constructive notice, nevertheless, the statute of limitations begins to run at the moment of injury. Texas courts can now impose notice upon an individual even if they have no reason to suspect an injury. The due diligence standard is set too high for mineral owners and since the court system will not implement the discovery rule, the legislature should demand it.
St. Mary's University School of Law
L. Melanie Martin,
Heci v. Neel: Application of the Discovery Rule to Damages Arising out of Oil and Gas Leases.,
St. Mary's L.J.
Available at: https://commons.stmarytx.edu/thestmaryslawjournal/vol33/iss1/5
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