Cleanup Ruling Sticks, Despite Claim Site Conveyed by Fraud

By Peter Hayes

A Texas man’s evidence that a contaminated property was fraudulently conveyed to him doesn’t save him from liability for the site’s cleanup under the state underground storage tank law.

Even if the deed was obtained by fraud, it remains in effect until set aside, a Texas appeals court said.

The purported owner, Matthew Pryor, may seek to void the deed, the court said.

But that’s not a challenge that can be made in an enforcement proceeding under the UST law, the court said.

In 1993, Parker Tire signed a warranty deed transferring the property to Pryor.

In 2007, the state discovered contamination on the site and, after getting no response from Pryor, filed an enforcement action seeking civil penalties and an order that he properly remove three USTs.

Pryor responded that he didn’t own the property, and that the deed was fraudulently filed.

Parker’s owner testified that Pryor’s sister-in-law bought the property from him and asked him to put the deed in Pryor’s name.

But this wasn’t enough to dismiss the action, the appeals court said.

The state met its burden to establish ownership through the “presumptively valid deed,” the court said.

Pryor failed to raise a “genuine issue of material fact concerning [his] ownership” of the USTs, the court said.

Judge Melissa Goodwin issued the ruling.

Ronnie Jones Law represented Pryor.

The case is Pryor v. State , Tex. App., 3d Dist., 03-17-00316-CV, 6/12/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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