Property owners in central Texas are celebrating a legal victory in their battle against Texas Central, the company attempting to build a high-speed rail from Houston to Dallas.
Texas Central has filed lawsuits against over ten Ellis County landowners in an effort to seize their property through eminent domain in order to build the rail. Texas Central maintains they are a railroad company under Texas law, qualifying for eminent domain authority.
However, in a recent decision, Ellis County Court at Law Judge Jim Chapman denied Texas Central’s motion for a summary judgement order, blocking the company’s ability to survey property they want to take from Ellis County landowners—at least for the time being. The final question of whether Texas Central can take the land as a railroad will now go to trial. In another case, a Leon County judge has already ruled that they cannot.
Ronny Caldwell, one of the landowners sued by Texas Central, said this is actually the second time he has faced a lawsuit from the company:
“Texas Central sued me back in 2016, then dropped the lawsuit after I hired an attorney and filed my papers. Then they sued me again in 2018,” Caldwell said. “For years, I’ve been asking them to show me proof they are a railroad with eminent domain. They never could. And as it turns out, they couldn’t prove it in court either.”
According to a recent press release from Texans Against High-Speed Rail, Texas Central has filed 43 cases in six counties, with no success so far.
“Once again, Texas Central bullied innocent landowners, sued them, threatened them with attorney’s fees, filed thousands of pages of papers, and then lost in court,” said TAHSR’s legal counsel Patrick McShan. “It’s like a broken record. How many more of these cases does Texas Central and their army of lawyers have to lose before they get it through their heads that bringing a bunch of boxes of papers to the courthouse to show how much work you’ve done doesn’t mean you can violate someone’s private property rights?”
This article has been updated since it was originally published to reflect the results in the judge’s order.