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Bradley v. Scott

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

May 5, 2017

Isaac Bradley and Jeffrey Bradley
v.
Shannon Scott and Joanne Scott

         Appeal from Conecuh Circuit Court (CV-13-900102)

          THOMAS, Judge.

         Isaac Bradley and Jeffrey Bradley appeal a judgment of the Conecuh Circuit Court ("the trial court") in favor of Shannon Scott and Joanne Scott.

         Background

          On November 25, 2013, the Bradleys filed a complaint against the Scotts in the trial court. In their complaint, the Bradleys alleged that they owned a certain parcel of real property ("the Bradley parcel"), that Cedar Creek Land & Timber, Inc. ("Cedar Creek"), owned an adjacent parcel of real property ("the Cedar Creek parcel"), and that the Scotts owned a nearby parcel of property ("the Scott parcel"), across which the Bradleys, their predecessors in interest, and representatives of Cedar Creek had allegedly traveled "in excess of 30 years for access to their properties." I n their complaint, the Bradleys further alleged that the Scotts had "wrongfully placed a locked gate blocking" an "open [and] defined roadway" that had allegedly been used to travel across the Scott parcel by the Bradleys, their predecessors in interest, representatives of Cedar Creek, and the public.

         The Bradleys requested declaratory and injunctive relief, specifically asking that the trial court, among other things, "[e]nter an [o]rder which declares that the open, defined roadway that crosses [the Scott parcel] is a public roadway by prescription or[, ] in the alternative[, ] that the [Bradleys] have an easement by agreement, by prescription, by implication, by necessity[, ] and/or by adverse possession." The Scotts answered the Bradleys' complaint, generally denying their allegations. Neither Conecuh County ("the county") nor Cedar Creek were ever made parties to the action.

         In December 2015, the trial court conducted an ore tenus trial at which it received testimony from, among other witnesses, Keith Johnson, a Cedar Creek "reading manager" whose duties included management of the Cedar Creek parcel. Another Cedar Creek employee, Luke Mitchell, also testified; he stated that he was not responsible for managing the Cedar Creek parcel, but, he said, he had hunted on the Cedar Creek parcel under a lease. The evidence presented at trial established that the Cedar Creek parcel is situated between the Bradley parcel and the Scott parcel and that traveling to the Bradley parcel from the Scott parcel via the access road at issue requires crossing over the Cedar Creek parcel.

         At the close of the Bradleys' case-in-chief, the Scotts moved for a judgment as a matter of law regarding the Bradleys' claim that an easement had been established by adverse possession, which the trial court granted. At the close of all the evidence, the trial court heard closing statements from the parties' attorneys, who had the following exchange:

"[The Scotts' attorney]: You also have in question here the fact that, you know, even if [the Bradleys] got access to come across [the Scott parcel, ] what if one day Cedar Creek said no, you ain't coming across ours? What are you gonna do then?
"[The Bradleys' attorney]: Same case. Same facts.
"[The Scotts' attorney]: It very well may be, but it may require another court action. And so we submit that it just isn't -- They just haven't proved their case is our position, Judge.
"[The trial court]: All right. I'll take it under advisement."

On October 4, 2016, the trial court entered a judgment, which provides, in relevant part:

"[The Bradleys] and [the Scotts] are owners of [p]roperty in Conecuh County, Alabama[, ] which are in the same area [as] each other but do not share a common border. They are ...

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