SAM D. JOHNSON, Justice.
The question presented for our decision in this case is a narrow one. The substantive legal issue is whether or not a directed verdict may be based on the uncontradicted testimony of a party to the lawsuit. To pose the question in its precise factual context, did the testimony of Ollie Collora, plaintiff below and petitioner here, establish as a matter of law one element (i. e., a present agreement to be husband and wife) of a common-law marriage between herself and Joe Collora when the other elements of such a marriage were conclusively proven by evidence other than her testimony? The trial court ruled in favor of Mrs. Collora by granting her motion for directed verdict. The court of civil appeals, with one member dissenting, reversed and remanded the cause. 566 S.W.2d 304. We agree with the action of the trial court and accordingly reverse the judgment of the court of civil appeals, but for reasons stated below, remand the cause to the trial court for rendition of a proper judgment.
The court of civil appeals in its original opinion upheld the judgment in favor of Mrs. Collora. On rehearing, however, the court reversed the directed verdicts as to the children intervenors and Mrs. Collora and remanded both causes to the trial court. 566 S.W.2d 304. One member of the court dissented from the reversal as it related to Mrs. Collora. 566 S.W.2d 304 at 312-14. The children intervenors have not appealed from that decision and are therefore not now before this court. Only Mrs. Collora has appealed.
Ollie and Joe started dating in 1947, and by 1949 were going together on a steady basis. Ollie testified that in April 1949 she and Joe "agreed to a marriage" and moved into his mother's home where they lived until late 1949 or early 1950. This is the period of the claimed common-law marriage. Thereafter, in her words, they "confirmed" their marriage through a civil ceremony on February 11, 1950, some ten months after the commencement of their alleged common-law marriage. The reason ascribed for delaying the ceremonial marriage was religious differences between Joe's mother, a Catholic, and Ollie, a Protestant.
In late 1948 or early 1949, while still dating and before they had "agreed to a marriage," Joe and Ollie became interested in purchasing land under the Texas Veterans Land Board Program, Article 5421m, Texas Revised Civil Statutes Annotated, now codified as Texas Natural Resources Code Annotated, Sections 161.001-161.403. They decided on the 68.5-acre tract which is the subject matter of this suit. It was not until January 17, 1950, in the ninth month of their claimed common-law marriage, however, that Joe Collora, as purchaser, contracted with the Veterans Land Board for the purchase of this property in his
Joe and Ollie were divorced on December 15, 1959. Respondent Navarro, an attorney, represented Joe during the divorce proceedings. At the time of those proceedings the Veterans Land Board contract was still out-standing and in force and effect. The divorce decree granted Joe and Ollie each one half of the equity in the farm, but did not partition the tract of land. A little more than two years later, in January 1962, Joe attempted to convey by deed title to all of the land to the Camille Corporation. Later in the same month he assigned the Veterans Land Board contract to the Corporation. Ollie did not join in these transactions. Camille Corporation in turn attempted to convey by deed title to all of the 68.5-acre tract to Navarro. Joe Collora died testate in 1968. This suit was instituted in 1971. The decisions of the lower courts are set forth above.
The court of civil appeals applied the proper standard of review in this directed verdict case. The rule as generally stated is that the plaintiff is entitled to a directed verdict when reasonable minds can draw only one conclusion from the evidence. The task of an appellate court in such a case is to determine whether there is any evidence of probative force to raise fact issues on the material questions presented. The court must consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom the verdict was instructed, discarding all contrary evidence and inferences. Henderson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 544 S.W.2d 649 (Tex.1976); Echols v. Wells, 510 S.W.2d 916 (Tex.1974). When reasonable minds may differ as to the truth of controlling facts, the issue must go to the jury. Najera v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 146 Tex. 367, 207 S.W.2d 365 (1948).
The validity of the common-law marriage has always been recognized in Texas. 1 L. Simpkins, Texas Family Law § 2:1 (1975); Comment, Common-Law Marriage in Texas, 21 Sw.L.J. 647 (1967). It is authorized by statute. Tex.Fam.Code Ann. § 1.91. A valid common-law marriage consists of three elements: (1) an agreement presently to be husband and wife; (2) living together as husband and wife; and (3) holding each other out to the public as such. Humphreys v. Humphreys, 364 S.W.2d 177 (Tex.1963). There was abundant evidence from other sources of the second and third elements, and the court of civil appeals correctly held that they were established as a matter of law. Consequently, our concern is directed solely to proof of the first element.
The only direct evidence relating to the first element—a present agreement to be husband and wife—was Ollie's testimony that she and Joe had "agreed to a marriage." Her testimony was direct, positive, and uncontradicted. Navarro chose not to cross-examine her, nor did he call her as an adverse witness. There was no other direct evidence produced at trial that proved or disproved her testimony. Under these circumstances, the court of civil appeals held that Ollie's testimony, standing alone, could do no more than raise a fact issue of credibility and could not support a directed verdict. With this conclusion we cannot agree.
The exception to the rule was explained thusly by McDonald:
This exception is most appropriate when the opposing party has the means and opportunity of disproving the testimony or testing the credibility of the witness, but fails to avail himself of it. On the other hand, as we stated in Gevinson v. Manhattan Construction Co. of Okl., 449 S.W.2d 458 (Tex.1969), "the basis for recognizing an exception is weakened somewhat when the testimony is such that it could not readily be contradicted if untrue." 449 S.W.2d 458 at 467 [and cases cited].
The court of civil appeals was of the opinion that Mrs. Collora's testimony, although clear, direct, positive, and uncontradicted, was of such a nature that Navarro could not readily contradict or disprove it. Consequently, it presented an issue of credibility for the jury. There are three factors present in this case which, taken together, lead us to disagree with the lower court's holding.
First, the general rule governing the finality to be given to testimony of an interested witness is by no means an absolute one to be applied in a cut-and-dried fashion. Rather, it is flexible and its application must turn on the facts of each case. Certainly there will be cases where the credibility of an interested witness or party is so suspect that it must go to the jury, even though the testimony is uncontradicted. Then there will also be cases where the testimony of the witness is so clear that the jury should not be allowed to speculate as to his veracity. Cf. Praetorian Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Sherman, 455 S.W.2d 201 (Tex.1970), with Great American R. Ins. Co. v. San Antonio Pl. Sup. Co., 391 S.W.2d 41 (Tex.1965). Between these two extremes lies a broad spectrum of possibilities. Our courts have recognized this in the past by setting forth certain standards by which the rule and its exceptions are to be measured: Is the testimony clear, direct, and positive? Is it internally consistent? Is it contradicted or corroborated by other circumstances in the case? Is it contradicted or corroborated by other witnesses? Does the opposing party possess the means to verify or dispute the testimony? Does he have a way to test the witness' credibility? Did he make use of those means? Obviously no one factor automatically can be dispositive in every case.
The court of civil appeals in this case, however, has in essence resorted to an automatic test for applying the rule, that being whether or not it is possible to contradict the testimony of the interested witness. The practical effect of this holding would be to foreclose the possibility of an instructed verdict in many, if not most, common-law marriage cases. It is well-established that the agreement to marry need not be shown by direct evidence, but may be implied or inferred from evidence that establishes the elements of cohabitation and holding out to the public as husband and wife. Humphreys v. Humphreys, supra, at 178; Consolidated Underwriters v. Kelly, 15 S.W.2d 229, 230 (Tex.Com.App.1929, jdgmt adopted); Tex.Fam.Code Ann. § 1.91(b); Comment, Common Law Marriages in Texas, 13 Baylor L.Rev. 168 (1961).
A second factor in this case leads us to disagree with the court of civil appeals. The court placed great importance on the fact that Navarro had no way to disprove or contradict Ollie's testimony as to the agreement. Under the present circumstances, we are inclined to agree with the dissent in the court of civil appeals that Navarro could have utilized the "time honored method for testing a witness's credibility,... cross-examination ..." 566 S.W.2d 304 at 313.
Finally, there is a third factor which, when taken in combination with the two listed above, compels us to reverse the decision of the court of civil appeals. We have already pointed out that the agreement to be husband and wife may be inferred from proof of the other two elements of a common-law marriage. In this case there is no need to resort to inferences, inasmuch as there is direct evidence of an express agreement. We find persuasive Mrs. Collora's argument that the proof of cohabitation and holding out to the public was corroborative evidence of her direct testimony. "[W]hen there exists corroboration [either by another witness or surrounding circumstances] we are no longer dealing with an issue raised solely by the testimony of an interested witness." 3 R. McDonald, Texas Civil Practice, supra, at 250.
We hasten to emphasize that the three factors considered important in this case will not automatically be dispositive of other cases. The circumstances of each case must be carefully considered, and each case must turn on its own facts.
One further problem remains to be resolved concerning the proper disposition of this appeal. Although Ollie prayed for a partition of the land, the trial court granted her "title to and possession of an undivided one-half interest" in the land. As explained in footnote three to this opinion, however, legal title to the land still rests with the Veterans Land Board, which was not made a party to this suit. The trial court thus was without power to award to Ollie a legal title to the land. At most, it had the power to adjust the equitable interests in the land among the parties to this action. It is of course true that Joe's assignment of the contract and attempted transfer of the entire tract in 1962 to the Camille Corporation would not be effective to transfer a greater interest in the property than that which he owned. Bradley v. Bradley, 540 S.W.2d 504, 512-13 (Tex.Civ. App.—Fort Worth 1976, no writ). The Camille Corporation could have acquired no more than Joe's undivided one half equitable interest in the farm, and it in turn could transfer no greater interest than that to Navarro. We have therefore determined that this cause must be remanded to the
Mrs. Collora's cause is severed from the cause brought by the children intervenors. As severed, the judgment of the court of civil appeals relating to Mrs. Collora is reversed and the cause is remanded to the trial court for entry of a proper judgment in accordance with this opinion.