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Satterwhite v. Rodney Byrd Millennium Props., Inc.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 24, 2015

Martha S. Satterwhite, Larry G. Satterwhite, and Sara J. Satterwhite
v.
Rodney Byrd Millennium Properties, Inc. Martha S. Satterwhite, Larry G. Satterwhite, and Sara J. Satterwhite
v.
Saddle Lake Farms Association, Inc., and Mutual Savings Credit Union

          Appeals from Shelby Circuit Court. (CV-06-900038 and CV-07-900173)

         For Appellants: Donald H. Brockway, Jr., Birmingham.

         For Saddle Lake Farms Association, Inc. Appellee: J. Frank Head of Ellis, Head, Owens & Justice, Columbiana.

         For Mutual Savings Credit Union, Appellee: Foster D. Key of Key Greer Harrison & Casey, Birmingham.

         THOMAS, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ.,concur.

          OPINION

Page 891

          THOMAS, Judge.

         These appeals, which were consolidated by this court ex mero motu, arise out of a property dispute regarding the propriety of certain easements. The basic facts are undisputed. In 1982 Ruby P. Levy and Harry Scheinert conveyed a 60-foot-wide easement to Wayne R. Satterwhite. In 1984 H.E. Wills and Maria Wills conveyed

Page 892

a separate 60-foot-wide easement to Wayne, Martha S. Satterwhite, Larry G. Satterwhite, and Sara J. Satterwhite (Martha, Larry, and Sara are hereinafter referred to collectively as " the Satterwhites" ). The two easements (" the historical easements" ) were within property that would eventually be developed into Saddle Lake Farms -- " a land condominium with units/lots containing houses for sale, with platted streets and roadways." The property upon which Saddle Lake Farms was developed is contiguous to a 60-acre parcel that was owned by Wayne and the Satterwhites, and the historical easements were intended to be access easements to the 60-acre parcel.

         On June 5, 1995, Saddle Lake Farms Association, Inc. (" the HOA" ), recorded its articles of incorporation, a survey of Saddle Lake Farms, a property description of Saddle Lake Farms, and a declaration establishing the neighborhood covenants for Saddle Lake Farms (" the incorporation documents" ), and the HOA received a certificate of incorporation. Gerd Anderson was the president of the HOA. Per the incorporation documents, EnviroBuild, Inc., a property-development company, held the management rights of the HOA until private owners owned 75% of the units that composed Saddle Lake Farms. Anderson was also the president of EnviroBuild.

         In 1997 Satterwhite Enterprises, LLC (owned by Wayne and the Satterwhites),[1] and EnviroBuild entered into a jointventure agreement to equally divide the profits and losses of developing Saddle Lake Farms. In 2001 Satterwhite Enterprises conveyed a 77.89-acre parcel to EnviroBuild. The deed, which appears in the record, conveyed a parcel within the area to become Saddle Lake Farms, subject to " easements of record[]," and included an express condition that an access-and-utilities easement would be created in the future for access to Satterwhite Enterprises' contiguous 60-acre parcel.[2]

         On July 26, 2004, Anderson, on behalf of both EnviroBuild and the HOA, executed an easement document (" the easement document" ), which purported to convey to Wayne and the Satterwhites a specifically identified 60-foot-wide " permanent ingress/egress and utilities easement over, across, and under the property formerly granted to EnviroBuild by Satterwhite Enterprises." The easement document described an easement running across, among others, a lot identified in the record as Lot 208; the easement document was recorded. On July 26, 2004, Anderson, on behalf of the HOA, executed an " agreement for ingress egress easement" in which the HOA conveyed to Envirobuild " perpetual use" of

" a permanent ingress-egress easement within the streets and roadways located in Saddle Lakes Farms Condominium which are more readily depicted and described as a common element in the condominium's recorded plans. This easement is granted for the purpose of providing permanent access to and from all the real properties [(sic)] owned by

Page 893

[EnviroBuild], which adjoins and is contiguous to Saddle Lake Farms."

         According to business letters contained in the record, 75% of the units of Saddle Lake Farms were owned by private owners by November 16, 2004; thus, on January 5, 2005, the management rights of the HOA transferred from EnviroBuild to the newly elected board of the HOA.

         In 2005 EnviroBuild sold, among other lots, Lot 208, subject to any existing easement, to Rodney Byrd Millennium Properties, Inc. (" Millennium" ). The lot was surveyed, but the surveyor failed to discover the easement document, and Anderson, on behalf of EnviroBuild, executed a sworn statement indicating that no easements existed on the lot. Millennium contracted to build a house on Lot 208 for prospective buyers, Shane Sumrall and his wife, Kristina Sumrall. Due to their eventual discovery of the easement document, the Sumralls never purchased the house, and Millennium was thereafter unable to sell the house. Mutual Savings Credit Union (" MSCU" ) eventually foreclosed upon the house and Lot 208.

         On September 11, 2006, Millennium and the Sumralls filed in the Shelby Circuit Court a complaint against EnviroBuild, Wayne, Anderson, Stewart Title Guaranty Co., and Satterwhite Enterprises, which was assigned case no. CV-06-900038 (" the 06 action" ). On May 15, 2007, the Satterwhites filed a complaint against Millennium, Rodney Byrd (the president of Millennium), the Sumralls, the surveyor of Lot 208, and the surveyor's employer, which was assigned case no. CV-07-900173 (" the 07 action" ). The circuit court granted MSCU's motion to intervene in the 07 action on February 4, 2009; MSCU aligned itself with the Satterwhites.[3] The HOA was added as a defendant in the 07 action on October 10, 2010.

         On December 20, 2007, the circuit court entered an order consolidating the 06 action and the 07 action " for purposes of discovery and trial." We discuss each action in turn.

         The 06 Action -- ...


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