How can pipeline companies use a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction to survey your land without your permission? If you’ve been served with notice, you should talk with an attorney experienced in representing landowners in condemnation and eminent domain. Call 800-266-4870 for an appointment with Attorney Philip Hundl.
Summary of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Temporary Injunction Video
– Hi, I’m Philip Hundl with the Law Firm of Wadler, Perches, Hundl & Kerlick. My practice area focuses primarily on representing landowners in condemnation matters.
What Happens if You Don’t Agree to Allow Survey Crews on Your Land?
If you the landowner don’t agree to allow survey crews to access your property, what happens? You’ll get a big stack of paper like this. The pipeline company will get a temporary restraining order and then seek to get a temporary injunction. So let me talk about that and what that means.
The first of several procedural steps for the pipeline company is to file an application with the Texas Railroad Commission. If the pipeline company is issued a permit by the Railroad Commission, then it will be considered at least preliminarily as a common carrier. There are certain statutes in the Utilities Code, and if it’s a water line then the Water Code, that allow those common carriers access to a landowner’s property for the purpose of surveying for a potential route.
So if a landowner and the right of way agent company or the pipeline company don’t come to an agreement on temporary access, then the landowner should be ready to receive formal notice of a temporary restraining order. You will be served with a temporary restraining order and a lawsuit essentially asking for extended temporary access to the property.
A Temporary Restraining Order Can Be Granted without Notice to the Landowner
So what the pipeline company would have to do is file a petition stating that it has a right to enter the property to do these surveys and the basis for that requested access. The pipeline company would include an application for a temporary restraining order. That temporary restraining order is something that they can propose to the judge ex parte, which means one side, the pipeline side, without the landowner represented before the court.
If there’s sufficient evidence for that request to enter your property, supported by evidence like affidavits, and if the judge feels that there’s an immediate need, then the judge could grant that temporary restraining order ex parte. Again that means the judge could grant a temporary restraining order without you, the landowner, present at a hearing.
In the temporary restraining order, the judge will usually order a certain amount of bond posted by the pipeline company. Normally it’s fairly nominal.
You Have a Right to Be Represented at a Hearing for a Temporary Injunction
That temporary restraining order is only going to be valid for 14 days. So within 14 days the pipeline company needs to schedule a hearing and get in front of the judge to convert that temporary restraining order into a temporary injunction. You can think of the temporary injunction as an extended temporary restraining order.
Before that temporary injunction hearing, you the landowner are served with notice, and you have an opportunity to be there and be heard. So, that’s an important right. One of the key rights in our justice system is notice that there’s a lawsuit against you, in this case notice that someone is seeking entry onto your property.
Technically the temporary restraining order is not valid until you’re noticed with it which means you’ve been personally served with it. It also expires after 14 days if it is not extended or if there’s not a temporary injunction hearing that essentially converts the temporary restraining order into a temporary injunction order.
Don’t Ignore Service!
One thing to be very aware of is if you as a landowner are served personally, you need to take action. If you receive paperwork from a private process server or from a constable or a deputy sheriff, you need to take action soon.
What’s the action you take? You need to contact a lawyer who is familiar with condemnation matters and representing landowners. Because you need someone who understands the legal civil procedure to be able to act on your behalf and get you ready for a hearing, if there will be a hearing.
A possible disadvantage of not showing up or avoiding the hearing is that you might have to pay the pipeline company’s attorneys’ fees. In this stack of papers that I have in my hand, is a temporary restraining order and an application for a temporary injunction. Some of the relief that the pipeline company is asking for is that the landowner pay for attorneys’ fees. The pipeline company is asking the court to award them attorneys’ fees for the cost of filing this petition, getting the temporary restraining order and having to attend a hearing and getting the temporary injunction order.
All of that could be very expensive for the landowner — a court could assess those attorneys’ fees against the landowner. So, be very careful with that. Take action.
Alternatives to Fighting the Temporary Injunction
What are some less burdensome alternatives to appearing at a temporary injunction hearing to convince a judge not to allow the pipeline company on your property? Have your lawyer talk to the right of way agent or the pipeline company and see if you can reach an agreeable temporary access agreement for the limited purpose of the pipeline company surveying your property for this potential route.
Sometimes the pipeline route won’t end up on your property, but it’s hard for the pipeline company to know that unless they’ve gone on your property and surveyed it. The survey is not just a civil engineering survey. It’s also other surveys like archeological, historical, and environmental.
So, if you are facing a temporary injunction hearing, take it very seriously and take action. Contact an attorney you feel comfortable with, who understands condemnation and representing land owners.
Let Us Help You
Call 800-266-4870 for an appointment with our landowner condemnation rights attorneys. We have offices in Wharton and El Campo in Wharton County and in Fulshear and Richmond in Fort Bend County. If time is short and you’ve been served with notice, please call an attorney for an appointment.