Can a subsequent owner sue for contamination to his property prior to his ownership?

Standing is a common defensive strategy in response to environmental property damage claims.  Standing is a component of a court’s subject-matter jurisdiction.   For more than 100 years, the Texas Supreme Court has recognized that a cause of action for injury to real property accrues when the injury is committed.   The right to sue is a personal right that belongs to the person who owns the property at the time of the injury.  The right to sue does not pass to a subsequent purchaser of the property unless there is an express assignment of the cause of action. 

A general warranty deed is insufficient to assign a cause of action.   A party can obtain a retroactive assignment.    However, it is probably best to obtain the assignment before filing suit.

It should be noted that there is some disagreement among several Texas courts on whether the characterization of an injury as temporary or permanent is relevant to the issue of standing. 

Do you have questions? You can get our FREE ebook, Environmental Litigation: What Every Attorney and Environmental Professional Needs to Know, just by providing your name and email address at this link.  We promise your information won’t be shared with third persons. And if you’d like to speak with me about your case, I welcome your phone call at 972-850-8490. I look forward to speaking with you.