law-ripeness doctrine | mootness doctrine | standing to bring and maintain suit | jurisdictional issues
challenges |
plea to the jurisdiction | subject matter jurisdiction |

LEGAL CONCEPT OF RIPENESS DEFINED AND EXPLAINED

Ripeness is a threshold issue that implicates subject-matter jurisdiction. Patterson v. Planned Parenthood,
971 S.W.2d 439, 442 (Tex. 1998). While the jurisdictional issue of standing focuses on who may bring an
action, ripeness focuses on when that action may be brought. Waco Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Gibson, 22 S.W.3d
849, 851 (Tex. 2000).
 Ripeness concerns whether, at the time a lawsuit is brought, the facts have developed sufficiently such that
an injury has occurred or is likely to occur, rather than being contingent or remote. Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at
442. To establish that a claim is ripe based on an injury that is likely to occur, the plaintiff must demonstrate
that the injury is imminent, direct, and immediate, and not merely remote, conjectural, or hypothetical.
Gibson, 22 S.W.3d at 852. By focusing on the concreteness of injury, the ripeness doctrine allows a court to
avoid premature adjudication and issuance of advisory opinions. Id.

Ripeness is an element of subject-matter jurisdiction and, as such, is subject to de novo review. Mayhew,
964 S.W.2d at 928–29. We look to the experience of the federal courts in determining the ripeness of
constitutional challenges to land-use regulations. Id. at 928–29.

CASE LAW ON RIPENESS DOCTRINE - HOUSTON APPELLATE DECISIONS

City of Houston v. Norcini (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Nov. 19, 2009)(Higley)
(
unconstitutional taking - flood control ordinance, ripeness issue, denial of plea to the jurisdiction affirmed)
AFFIRM TRIAL COURT JUDGMENT: Opinion by
Justice Laura Carter Higley     
Before Justices Jennings, Higley and Sharp   
01-09-00426-CV  The City Of Houston v. Bruce A. Norcini   
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 3 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Hon. Linda Storey

Ripeness is a component of subject matter jurisdiction. Gibson, 22 S.W.3d at 850. "Ripeness, like
standing, is a threshold issue that implicates subject matter jurisdiction, and like standing,
emphasizes the need for a
concrete injury for a justiciable claim to be presented." Id. (quoting
Patterson v. Planned Parenthood of Houston, 971 S.W.2d 439, 432 (Tex. 1998)). However, where
standing concerns who may bring an action, ripeness concerns when that action may be brought.
Id. at 851.  

A case is not ripe when the determination of whether the plaintiff has a concrete injury depends on
contingent or hypothetical facts, or upon events that have not yet come to pass. See Waco Indep. School
Dist. v. Gibson, 22 S.W.3d 849, 852 (Tex. 2000) (holding that injunctive action against school district
involving equal rights and due course of law claims arising out of student promotion policy was not ripe
because policy had not been applied at time suit was filed). HS Tejas has not alleged any specific
improvement or sale that was impacted or impeded by the 2006 amendment. Moreover, HS Tejas did not
submit to the trial court any plan for development or renovation of the property. In the absence of a specific
allegation that the 2006 amendment impeded some actual development or sales plan, there is no concrete
injury alleged sufficient to support a regulatory takings claim. Gibson, 22 S.W.3d at 852. In fact, under the
2008 ordinance, which affords the City Engineer greater discretion in issuing permits, HS Tejas may now
apply for a development permit, giving the City an opportunity to abate any alleged taking. Houston, Tex.
Code of Ordinances § 19-43 (2009); Mayhew, 964 S.W.2d at 930.  Because HS Tejas has failed to allege a
concrete injury as is necessary to establish subject-matter jurisdiction in this case, we reverse the trial court’
s order denying the plea to the jurisdiction, and remand the cause for further proceedings.Because HS
Tejas has failed to allege a concrete injury as is necessary to establish subject-matter jurisdiction in this
case, we reverse the trial court’s order denying the plea to the jurisdiction, and remand the cause for further
proceedings. Because HS Tejas has failed to allege a concrete injury as is necessary to establish subject-
matter jurisdiction in this case, we reverse the trial court’s order denying the plea to the jurisdiction, and
remand the cause for further proceedings.  
City of Houston v. HS Tejas, Ltd. (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Oct. 22, 2009)(Massengale)
(
inverse condemnation, regulatory takings claim, plea to the jurisdiction proper, ripeness issue,
opportunity to amend)
REVERSE TRIAL COURT JUDGMENT AND REMAND CASE TO TRIAL COURT FOR FURTHER
PROCEEDINGS: Opinion by
Justice Massengale    
Before Chief Justice Radack, Justices Bland and Massengale
01-09-00393-CV   City of Houston v. HS Tejas, Ltd   
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 2 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Hon. Jacqueline Lucci Smith


Harris County Municipal District No. 156 v. United Somerset Corp. (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Sep. 4,
2008)(Alcala) (
plea to the jurisdiction, immunity, local government unit, suit dismissed for want of jurisdiction)
REVERSE TC JUDGMENT AND REMAND CASE TO TC FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS:
Opinion by Justice Alcala
Before Chief Justice Radack, Justices Alcala and Bland
01-07-00220-CV Harris County Municipal District Number 156 v. United Somerset Corporation
Appeal from 113th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: Hon. Patricia Hancock  

In considering whether a claim is ripe, we consider whether, at the time a lawsuit is filed, the facts are
sufficiently developed "so that an injury has occurred or is likely to occur, rather than being contingent or
remote." Id. at 851-52 (quoting Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at 442)). A claim is not ripe if it concerns "uncertain
or contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated or may not occur at all." Id. at 852 (quoting
Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at 442). "
A case is not ripe when determining whether the plaintiff
has a concrete injury depends on contingent or hypothetical facts
, or upon events that
have not yet come to pass." Id. (citing Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at 443). A threat of harm can constitute a
concrete injury, but the threat must be "direct and immediate" rather than conjectural, hypothetical, or
remote. Id. (citing Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 152, 87 S. Ct. 1507 (1967)).

In other words, an
action for declaratory judgment is appropriate when the fact situation manifests the
present "ripening seeds" of a controversy. See Save Our Springs Alliance v. City of Austin, 149 S.W.3d 674,
683 (Tex. App.--Austin 2004, no pet.). Ripening seeds of a controversy "appear where the claims of several
parties are present and indicative of threatened litigation in the immediate future which seems unavoidable,
even though the differences between the parties as to their legal rights have not reached the state of an
actual controversy." Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Moore, 985 S.W.2d 149, 154 (Tex. App.--Austin 1998, no
pet.) (quoting Ainsworth v. Oil City Brass Works, 271 S.W.2d 754, 761 (Tex. Civ. App.--Beaumont 1954, no
writ)).

City of Houston v. O'Fiel (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Jan. 28, 2009)(Hanks)
(
regulatory taking, flood zone land use, ripeness doctrine)
AFFIRM TC JUDGMENT: Opinion by
Justice Hanks  
Before Justices Jennings, Hanks and Bland  
01-08-00242-CV  The City of Houston v. John O'Fiel and Mary Jane O'Fiel
Appeal from Co Civil Ct at Law No 1 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Hon. R. Jack Cagle


Maguire Oil Company et al v. The City of Houston (Tex.App. - Houston [14th Dist.] Jul. 24, 2007)
(plea juris,
ripeness, condemnation, takings claim)
REVERSED & REMANDED: Opinion by
Justice Seymore
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Seymore and Guzman
14-05-01272-CV Maguire Oil Company Et Al v.
The City of Houston
Appeal from Co Civil Ct at Law No 4 of Harris County
(
Judge Roberta Anne Lloyd) - Reversed and Remanded


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