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Saunders v. Ingram

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 7, 2017

John Saunders and Mike Saunders
v.
Betty Ingram

         Appeal from Henry Circuit Court (CV-12-900057).

          MOORE, Judge.

         John Saunders and Mike Saunders appeal from a judgment entered by the Henry Circuit Court ("the trial court") quieting title to a certain parcel of real property in Betty Ingram and John Ingram, Jr. We dismiss the appeal.

         On September 28, 2012, the Ingrams filed a complaint against the Saunderses and a number of fictitiously named defendants, asserting, among other things, that Betty and John owned separate but contiguous parcels of real property in Henry County; that the Saunderses owned property adjoining that of the Ingrams; and that the Ingrams' predecessors in title and the Saunderses' predecessor in title had agreed that Abbie Creek and Skipper Creek would operate as the boundary line between the parties' respective properties. The Ingrams further asserted that, following that agreement, they and their predecessors in title had maintained exclusive possession of the property lying west of Abbie Creek and Skipper Creek that had been included in the property description in the deed conveying property to the Saunderses ("the disputed property"). The Ingrams sought a judgment from the trial court quieting title to their properties, including the disputed property. On October 16, 2012, the Saunderses filed an answer to the complaint. They also filed a counterclaim seeking a judgment declaring that the disputed property belongs to the Saunderses in fee simple; an adjudication of the boundary line between the Ingrams' properties and the Saunderses' property; and an award of costs, damages, and attorney's fees resulting from the Ingrams' request for a restraining order.

         A trial was set for February 28, 2013. On February 21, 2013, the Ingrams filed a motion seeking to continue the trial, asserting, among other things, that John was suffering from issues with his health and would be unable to attend or testify at the trial; that motion was granted, and the trial date was reset. After a number of continuances, a trial was set for February 25, 2014. On February 24, 2014, Betty filed a motion to continue the trial setting of the case;[1] she asserted that John had died on February 10, 2014, that "no [e]state ha[d] been commenced as of [that] date, " and that it would "be necessary for a [p]ersonal [r]epresentative or [a]dministrator to be appointed and that person substituted as a party in interest pursuant to Rule 25 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, prior to the trial of this case." The trial court granted that motion to continue.

         Following an order in which the trial court requested to be advised of the status of the case and another order indicating that the case would be dismissed for "no action, " the trial court entered an order on January 20, 2015, dismissing the case for "lack of action." On January 21, 2015, Betty filed a motion to reinstate the case, asserting that the case "is and has been ready for trial and is waiting on the Court to set the trial date." The trial court granted that motion, reinstated the case, and set the case for a trial, which was conducted on October 8, 2015. After the close of all of the evidence, the following exchange occurred between the trial judge and Betty's attorney:

"THE COURT: My first question ... is, who's actually the plaintiff now? It started out as Betty and John Ingram. Obviously, John Ingram is deceased.
"[Counsel for Betty]: Judge, and we revised the case in the name of his estate.
"THE COURT: So, you filed -- the only thing I could find ... is you filed a motion to continue one time to amend in -- "[Counsel for Betty]: And we did that.
"THE COURT: You're telling me. Because, typically, she hits one print button and it prints off everything, and I didn't see it.
"[Counsel for Betty]: We amended and filed to bring in the estate. That's why Pam [Taylor] is sitting here, because she is the personal representative of the estate.
"THE COURT: As long as you tell me you're sure, I'm not going to go back and check.... So, you're sure?
"[Counsel for Betty]: Yes, sir."

         Following those representations by Betty's attorney, the trial was concluded after an unrelated discussion between the trial judge and the attorneys for the parties. On December 4, 2015, the trial court entered a judgment that stated: "After trial, judgment entered for plaintiff." Both Betty and the Saunderses filed postjudgment motions, and, on February 25, 2016, the trial court entered a new judgment in response to Betty's postjudgment motion in which it quieted title to the disputed property in Betty, as it related to the property in her name, and quieted title to the disputed property in "the Estate of John Ingram, as substituted Plaintiff, " with regard to the property in John's name. That same day, the trial court entered an order denying the Saunderses' postjudgment motion. ...


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