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Case Style: Buddy Casteel and Jaret Brandon Casteel v. Amelia Stayton
Case Number: 04-15-00273-CV
Judge: Luz Elena D. Chapa
Court: Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourth Court of Appeal from County Court of Real County
Plaintiff's Attorney: Bobby Rushing for Amelia Stayton
Defendant's Attorney: Kenneth E. Grubbs and Christopher John Deeves for Jaret Casteel
Kenneth E. Grubbs for Buddy Casteel
Description: Buddy and Jaret Casteel appeal the trial court’s judgment, which orders a writ of possession to issue so Amelia Stayton may recover possession of commercial property she had leased to the Casteels. The Casteels argue they are in lawful possession of the property because they signed a ten-year lease with Melissa Baugh, Stayton’s sister, who they argue had apparent authority to act as Stayton’s agent to lease the property. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
BACKGROUND The Casteels own and operate a business named “The Hog Pen” in Leakey, Texas, located on property owned by Stayton. On July 8, 2011, Jaret Casteel and Melissa Baugh signed a commercial lease agreement in which Baugh was identified as the “Landlord/Lessor/Agent” and was referred to as “Owner.” The lease term began on July 15, 2011, and ended July 14, 2012, and renewed on a month-to-month basis until the following events:
On August 11, 2014, Baugh sent the Casteels a “notice to vacate due to this property being sold.” Baugh requested that the Casteels vacate and deliver possession of the property “on or before September 15, 2014.”
On September 1, 2014, Jaret contacted Stayton via Facebook.com offering to buy part of the property for $250,000. Stayton responded, “I am really sorry. We have already signed a contract. And like I said. The block must be sold as a whole.”
On September 8, 2014, Stayton contacted Jaret via Facebook.com to ask “how you were coming on moving out and [to] make sure you were going to be out by September 15th.” Jaret responded with a request for another 45-60 days to vacate. Stayton replied, “We would love to but they have already set the closing for the 15th. You may want to talk to James [a real estate agent] and see if the new owner would give you a short time to get out.”
On September 16, 2014, Baugh’s counsel sent another notice to vacate stating, “If you do not vacate the premises on or before September 27, 2014, I will file a forcible detainer suit against you.”
On September 18, 2014, a handwritten agreement, which was signed by Baugh and the Casteels, was notarized. The notarized agreement leased the commercial property for a term starting September 14, 2014, and ending September 14, 2024. The handwritten agreement does not reflect the date on which it was signed.
On September 19, 2014, Stayton’s counsel sent a second “Notice to Vacate on or Before 9/27/14” to the Casteels. The letter stated Stayton was “the record owner of property . . . being occupied by . . . The Hog Pen.”
On October 6, 2014, Stayton brought a forcible detainer action to recover possession of the subject property. The case proceeded to trial in the Justice Court of Precincts 1 and 2 in Real County. The Justice of the Peace signed a judgment ordering Stayton may recover possession of the property from the Casteels. The Casteels appealed to the County Court of Real County. After a trial de novo before the bench, the trial court signed a judgment awarding Stayton possession, reasonable rent, attorney’s fees, and court costs. The Casteels appeal.
STANDARD OF REVIEW & APPLICABLE LAW
The Casteels’ sole issue is that there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that Baugh lacked apparent authority to lease the property as Stayton’s agent.1 They argue Stayton previously authorized Baugh to act as her agent in leasing and managing the property, but Stayton did not notify them that she terminated Baugh’s authority to act as her agent. However, “[a]pparent authority is not available when the other contracting party has notice of the limitations of the agent's power." Wal-Mart stores, Inc. v. Guerra, No. 04-08-00146-CV, 2009 WL 1900411, at *8 (Tex. App. - San Antonio July 1,2009, pet. denied) (mem. op.)/ "[A] party dealing with an agent must ascertain both the fact and the scope of the agent's authority, and if the party deals with the agent without having made such a determination, [the party] does so at [its] own risl." Lifshutz v. Lifshutz, 199 S.W.3d 9. 23 (Tex. App. - San Antonio 2006, pet. denied). Furthermore, the party alleging agency based on apparent authority "has the burden to prove its existence." Id. at 22. When, as in this case, a party challenges the legal sufficiency of an adverse finding on which he had thte burden of proof, he must demonstrate on appeal that the evidence conclusively established the facts in his favor as a matter of law. Dow Chem. Co. v. Francis, 46 S.W.3d 237, 241 (Tex. 2001) (per curiam). We first examine the record for evidence to support the finding. Id. If there is no evidence to support the finding, then we examine the entire record to determine if the contrary position is established as a matter of law. Id. We indulge every reasonable inference to support the judgment, crediting favorable evidence if a reasonable factfinder could and disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder could not. City of Keller v. Wilson,
168 S.W.3d 802, 822 (Tex. 2005).
When a party attacks the factual sufficiency of an adverse finding on an issue on which he has the burden of proof, he must demonstrate on appeal the adverse finding is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. Dow Chem., 46 S.W.3d at 242. We must consider and weigh all of the evidence; we will set aside a verdict only if the evidence is so weak or if the finding is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence that it is clearly wrong and unjust. See Pool v. Ford Motor Co., 715 S.W.2d 629, 635 (Tex. 1986). Furthermore, when the trial court makes no findings of fact and conclusions of law, “all facts necessary to support the judgment and supported by the evidence are implied.” BMC Software Belgium, N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 795 (Tex. 2002). The Casteels attack the legal and factual sufficiency of the implied adverse finding on the issue of Baugh’s apparent authority, which
they had the burden to prove. In this case, the record must demonstrate either that (1) no evidence supports the trial court’s implied finding that Baugh had no apparent authority as a matter of law and the evidence conclusively establishes that Baugh had apparent authority or (2) the trial court’s implied finding is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be wrong and unjust. See id.; Dow Chem. Co., 46 S.W.3d at 241; Pool, 715 S.W.2d at 635.
There is some evidence supporting the trial court’s implied finding that the Casteels had notice of the limitations of Baugh’s power to renew the lease beyond September 15, 2014. Baugh’s August 11, 2014 notice to vacate informed the Casteels that the property was being sold and they would need to vacate by September 15, 2014. In Stayton’s messages to Jaret on Facebook.com, Stayton notified Jaret that the leased property was under contract to be sold and the closing date was September 15, 2014. Stayton also denied Jaret’s request to extend the move-out date and recommended that Jaret contact the new owner’s agent to extend the move-out date. Stayton told the Casteels twice that she would not renew the lease beyond September 15, 2014. However, there is no evidence in the record that the Casteels later attempted to confirm Baugh had the authority to lease the property beyond September 15, 2014. Furthermore, because the evidence that the Casteels had notice of the limitations of Baugh’s power was undisputed, we cannot say the trial court’s implied finding is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence that it is clearly wrong and unjust. Therefore, we hold the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court’s judgment.
Outcome: We affirm the trial court’s judgment.