General granting clause showing intent to convey “all” property owned by grantor validates conveyance with defective property description

The Texas Supreme Court recently held that a clear general granting clause could save a defective property description in Davis v. Mueller, ___ S.W.3d ___, No. 16-0155, 2017 WL 2299316 (Tex. May 26, 2017).  In 1991, Virginia Cope conveyed to James Davis her mineral interests in ten vaguely described tracts in Harrison County, Texas.  The deed contained the following Mother Hubbard and general granting clause:

The “Lands” subject to this deed also include all strips, gores, roadways, water bottoms and other lands adjacent to or contiguous with the lands specifically described above and owned or claimed by Grantors.  If the description above proves incorrect in any respect or does not include these adjacent or contiguous lands, Grantor shall, without additional consideration, execute, acknowledge, and deliver to Grant[ee], its successors and assigns, such instruments as are useful or necessary to correct the description and evidence such correction in the appropriate public records.  Grantor hereby conveys to Grantee all of the mineral, royalty, and overriding royalty interest owned by Grantor in Harrison County, whether or not same is herein above correctly described.

Around the same time as Cope’s conveyance, James Mills conveyed his mineral interests in two tracts to Davis using the same language quoted above.  In 2011, Cope and Mills conveyed the same interests to Mark J. Mueller, a landman.  Mueller then filed suit against Davis to quiet title to the mineral interests.  Mueller asserted that the specific property descriptions in the 1991 deeds were insufficient to satisfy the Statute of Frauds and the general granting clause did not remedy the defective description.  Both sides moved for summary judgment on the title issue and the trial court entered a take-nothing judgment against Mueller.

On appeal, Mueller argued that the general granting clause is ambiguous because it purports to convey all the grantor’s interest in the county, which was a large amount of property, yet it was located in the same paragraph as the Mother Hubbard clause, a catch-all for small, overlooked interests.  Davis admitted that the specific property descriptions did not satisfy the Statute of Frauds but argued that the general granting clause in the two deeds was sufficient to pass title of all the grantors’ mineral interests in Harrison County.  The court of appeals agreed with Mueller, relying on J. Hiram Moore Ltd. v. Greer, 172 S.W.3d 609, 614 (Tex. 2005), and reversed the trial court.

The Texas Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the trial court’s ruling, holding that the 1991 deeds were not ambiguous and were effective.  In the court’s view, this case was different than Moore because in Moore the general granting clause created an ambiguity, whereas in this case the general granting clause resolves any ambiguity.  Davis, 2017 WL 2299316 at *8.  Mueller argued that because the general granting clause was in the same paragraph as the Mother Hubbard Clause it could not operate to convey the property based on the rule that a Mother Hubbard clause is not effective to convey a significant property interest not adequately described in the deed.  The court rejected this argument because that would render the general granting clause meaningless, and the general clause’s intent was clear: “The general grant’s conveyance of ‘all of the mineral, royalty, and overriding royalty interest owned by Grantor in Harrison County, whether or not same is herein above correctly described’ could not be clearer.  All means all.”  Id. at *9.

Based on this case, if a grantor only owns one property in a county, the grantee should include a catch all general granting clause in the deed that will give it validity if the property description is later determined to be defective.

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