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Texas Supreme Court Unanimously Rules for AT&T in Relocation Cost Dispute

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HOUSTON, March 27, 2015 - Baker Botts, a leading international business law firm, announced that on March 20, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Harris County Flood Control District must pay AT&T’s expenses to relocate its facilities from a bridge designated for demolition by the District’s flood control plan.

"The Court’s opinion enforces the plain language of Section 49.223 of the Texas Water Code requiring the District to bear relocation expenses that it ‘makes necessary.’ The opinion has implications beyond Section 49.223, as 34 other Texas statutes similarly impose relocation costs on various governmental entities around the state that make or made necessary the relocation," said Macey Reasoner Stokes, who leads Baker Botts’ appellate division and has handled over 60 cases in the Texas Supreme Court.

The crux of the case was whether the Harris County Flood Control District's plan to demolish a bridge as part of widening a bayou triggered the District's statutory obligation to pay for relocating the telephone company's equipment on the bridge (by making the relocation necessary).

The trial court granted the District's jurisdictional plea and granted summary judgment to the District and the City of Houston. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the District did not make AT&T's equipment relocation necessary because the City sent the relocation demand to AT&T (at the District’s behest) and because the District could have designed its flood control plan to leave the bridge intact (but did not).

The Texas Supreme Court reversed, holding that the District made the relocation of AT&T’s facilities necessary by adopting the flood control plan and contracting with the City to effectuate that plan, and that "AT&T is entitled to declaratory relief that payment of its relocation expenses by the District is required by § 49.223."

AT&T was represented by Macey Reasoner Stokes and Michelle S. Stratton of Baker Botts LLP and by in-house counsel Paul A. Drummond and Lennon G. Briley, Jr.

The case is Southwestern Bell Telephone L.P. v. Ed Emmett et al., cause no. 13-0584 in the Supreme Court of Texas.

 

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