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Landers v. East Texas Salt Water Disposal Co


    Citation. Landers v. East Texas Salt Water Disposal Co., 242 S.W.2d 236 (Tex. Civ. App. 1951)

    Brief Fact Summary. : Landers (Plaintiff), owner of a small lake, appealed the dismissal of action as to damages. After East Texas Salt Water Disposal Company’s (Defendant) plea in abatement asserting a misjoinder of parties and of causes of action had been sustained, the lake owner declined to replead so as to assert several liability only against each defendant in separate suits. The Court of Civil Appeals for the Sixth District (Texas) affirmed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. This case overrules the holding in Sun Oil Co. v. Robicheaux when it was held that a plaintiff could not proceed to judgment and satisfaction against the wrongdoers separately because in such a suit he cannot discharge the burden of proving with sufficient certainty the portion of the injury attributable to each defendant.
    In this case, the court adopts a new rule which states that when (1) the tortious acts of two or more wrongdoers join to produce an indivisible injury, that is, an injury which from its nature cannot be apportioned with reasonable certainty to the individual wrongdoers, all of the wrongdoers will be held jointly and severally liable for the entire damages and (2) the injured party may proceed to judgment against any one separately or against all in one suit.


    Facts. Plaintiff owned a small lake, which he had cleaned and stocked with fish at considerable expense. He alleged that East Texas Salt Water Disposal Co. and Sun Oil Co. (Defendants) both caused large quantities of salt water and also oil to flow into his lake killing the fish. He alleged that both Defendants acted negligently.

    Issue. Did the Plaintiff in his pleading allege facts, which, if established by evidence, made the Defendants jointly and severally liable for Plaintiff’s damages?

    Held. Yes.
    * The judgments of both lower courts were reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings not inconsistent with the instant opinion.
    * Adopting a new rule, that when (1) the tortious acts of two or more wrongdoers join to produce an indivisible injury, that is, an injury which from its nature cannot be apportioned with reasonable certainty to the individual wrongdoers, all of the wrongdoers will be held jointly and severally liable for the entire damages and (2) the injured party may proceed to judgment against any one separately or against all in one suit.
    * The court held that because there was no misjoinder as alleged, the property owner was within his rights in declining to replead and in declining to proceed through a futile and fruitless trial in order to test the correctness of a court’s ruling of misjoinder.

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    Discussion. The Plaintiffs’ action seeking a joint and several judgment of damages and injunctive relief was dismissed as to the damages feature by the trial court, when, after Defendants’ plea in abatement asserting a misjoinder of parties and of causes of action had been sustained, he declined to replead so as to assert several liability only against each of the Defendants in separate suits.
    * The lower court affirmed the trial court decision.
    * Overruling the holding in Sun Oil Co. v. Robicheaux, this court held that the property owner was not required under the circumstances of this case to replead and try a case wholly different from that asserted by him in order to obtain appellate review of his right to pursue to trial the case made by his pleadings. The allegations of the petition were sufficient to assert a case of joint and several liability against the corporations and there was no misjoinder of either parties or causes of action.

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