Title Insurance Policies And Boundary Lines

Everybody in Grand Prairie, Weatherford, Parker County, Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Cleburne, Mineral Wells, or any other place in Texas has a property line associated with his property. Title to land (property lines) is part of the coverage in a title insurance policy. As a result, the following case should be of some interest to all property owners.
The case deals with an opinion handed down by the Court of Appeals, Fort Worth. It was delivered on March 24, 2011. The style of the case is Jimmy D. Hand v. Old Republic Title Insurance Company. Here is some background.
Hand’s neighbor, Glen Jones, sued Hand over a rock wall that Hand built along the border separating their properties. Specifically, Jones claims that the rock wall “fails to follow the true boundary line and encroaches upon the boundary of his property.” Jones sued for trespass to try title and adverse possession.
Hand filed a claim with his insurance company, Old Republic, and requested that it intervene and defend the lawsuit. Old Republic denied the claim on the basis that Hand’s policy explicitly excludes coverage for “any discrepancies, conflicts, or shortages in area or boundary lines, or any encroachments, or any overlapping of improvements” and “rights of parties in possession.” Hand subsequently filed a third party petition against Old Republic in the underlying case and asserted claims based on Old Republic’s denial of coverage including breach of contract and violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The trial court granted judgment in favor of Old Republic and then this appeals court affirmed the judgment.
Old Republic argued two issues. One, that because Jones never made a claim to title to any portion of Hand’s lot, coverage under Hand’s policy was not invoked. Two, that even if Jones were making a claim to Hand’s property, all of Jone’s claims were based on the location of the boundary line between the two lots and therefore were specifically excluded under the policy. Hand argued that Jones was making a claim to Hand’s property, but he did not address the exclusion in his arguements.
In this case, because Hand did not appeal or present evidence about one of the reason’s that the trial court granted judgment in favor of Old Republic, then the appeals court could affirm the trial court based on the appeal point that was not addressed.
This court got into a couple pages long discussion as to the legal reasons they had to affirm the finding of the lower court when one of the points for the ruling was not properly presented in the trial court or properly addressed on appeal.
There are a couple of points to realize from this case.
One is that like this case, most title insurance policies are going to have language in them that specifically exclude coverage for boundary line disputes. What that means is that if your neighbor sues you for encroaching upon your neighbors property that you are going to have to defend the lawsuit with your own money. In other words, your title insurance company is not going to provide attorneys or pay for the expenses of the lawsuit or pay for any damages in the event that you lose the lawsuit. Something else to know is that your homeowners policy is not likely to provide coverage for this type of claim.
The second point to keep in mind is to quickly seek the advice of an experienced Insurance Law Attorney if you find yourself in a situation like the one above. Some more facts about the case is that the property was water front property and dealt with the location of a boat dock in addition to the rock wall. Only the persons involved and the attorneys know what other eveidence did or did not exist as it relates to the second point argued by Old Republic above.