Toufic Nicolas explains that in the 1980s, his firm—then called Nicolas, Morris & Barrow—represented clients who owned 16 acres in Caldwell County. An adjacent neighbor claimed that his land extended about eight acres into the client’s property. The boundary dispute wound up in court, and the firm’s clients won a judgment. During the appellate process, the neighbor gave up.
“He came and said, ‘I don’t want to bother with that tract,’” Nicolas explains. “He transferred it to the firm.”
For more than 30 years, Nicolas says the firm—which changed names to Nicolas & Morris and then to Nicolas, Morris, Gilbreath & Smith—owned the land, paid the taxes, and leased the tract to a family that ran the cattle-watermelon operation. When the firm recently wanted to sell the land, it needed to clear the title.
“You have to serve whoever is a record owner,” he explains. Nicolas says a family named Byrd, “had owned the property back in the 1900s or whatever.”
Alvin W. Byrd, Jr.—“one of Byrd’s forebears”— filed an answer challenging the firm’s claim of title, says a Jan. 9 opinion by the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. The 3rd Court dismissed the challenge, affirming a trial court judgment declaring the firm the owner, according to the opinion in Alvin W. Byrd, Jr. v. Nicolas & Morris. The firm produced deeds between “the Byrd forebears” and a string of subsequent owners, ending with the firm, the opinion says.
This will be the final chapter in the firm-farm story: Nicolas says the firm sold the land last year.
Texas Lawyer was unable to contact Byrd because searches on Lexis and whitepages.com didn’t return a telephone number for him.
-- Angela Morris