from Baldwin Circuit Court (CV-16-900135)
THOMPSON, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Holdings, LLC ("Rioprop"), appeals from a judgment
the Baldwin Circuit Court ("the trial court")
entered in favor of Compass Bank ("Compass") and
Walter K. Striplin in this action involving a dispute over
title to a unit in the Dunes Condominiums in Gulf Shores
("the property"). In the judgment, the trial court,
among other things, divested Rioprop of any interest it had
in the property and determined that Striplin had fee-simple
title to the property.
record indicates the following. In 2007, Striplin owned the
property. Compass held a mortgage on the property. Striplin
failed to pay the 2007 property taxes for the property, so on
May 27, 2008, the Baldwin County revenue commissioner
conducted a tax sale of the property. Plymouth Park Tax
Services ("Plymouth") purchased the property for
$36, 826.16 at the tax sale. However, Plymouth never took
action to obtain possession of the property, and it did not
notify Compass of its interest in the property.
November 2011, Plymouth obtained a tax deed on the property.
It subsequently conveyed its interest in the property to
Propel Financial 1, LLC ("Propel"). Joseph Lassen,
the in-house counsel for Propel, testified that, in 2014 or
2015, Propel purchased Plymouth and all of its assets,
including the property. Lassen said that Rioprop, "which
owns our REO [real estate owned] aspect of Propel, is a
separate entity that manages the REO, real estate owned
properties." On February 4, 2016, Propel filed a civil
action ("the action") in the trial court to enforce
its interest in the property. During the pendency of the
action, Rioprop was substituted for Propel. For ease of
reference, we refer to Rioprop when discussing the actions of
Plymouth, the tax purchaser, or Propel throughout the
remainder of this opinion.
complaint, Rioprop alleged five counts, including a count
seeking a declaration that it held an enforceable lien on the
property, with priority over all other liens; a count seeking
to eject everyone who claimed an interest in the property and
to vest possession in Rioprop; a count seeking to quiet title
of the property in Rioprop; a count to establish and enforce
a tax lien in the event the trial court determined that
Rioprop was not entitled to possession; and a count alleging
unjust enrichment based on the taxes that Rioprop had paid
since purchasing the property in the event that the trial
court determined that it was not entitled to possession of
the property or to a lien on the property.
and Striplin filed separate motions to dismiss the ejectment
and quiet-title claims on the ground that the applicable
limitations period had expired as to those claims. In
separate orders dated July 15, 2016, the trial court granted
the motions to dismiss those claims. Compass also filed a
counterclaim seeking a declaration that Rioprop did not have
an interest in the property because, it said, Rioprop was
time-barred from seeking possession. Compass further claimed
that any interest Rioprop might have had in the property had
vested in Striplin, subject to Compass's mortgage.
April 17, 2017, an ore tenus hearing was held on the
remaining issue of whether Rioprop was entitled to recover
the amount it had paid for the property at the tax sale, the
accumulated interest on that amount, the amount it had paid
for expenses such as property taxes and insurance, and an
attorney fee. At the hearing, Lassen testified that the total
amount Rioprop claimed was $117, 372.79. On
cross-examination, however, Lassen acknowledged that he did
not have a copy of the insurance policy or bills for the
premiums that had been paid. Lassen also admitted that, other
than a "payoff statement" that included a
description of the expenses paid in connection with the
property, he did not have receipts, copies of checks, or
other documents to support Rioprop's claim that it was
owed $117, 372.79 or entitled to a lien in that amount.
Lassen also testified that Rioprop had never demanded
possession of the property from Striplin.
1, 2017, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of
Striplin as to Rioprop's contention that it held an
enforceable lien with priority over all other liens on the
property. The trial court also denied Rioprop's request
to establish and enforce a lien pursuant to §§
40-10-70 and -76, Ala. Code 1975. As to Rioprop's
unjust-enrichment claim against Striplin, the trial court
found in favor of Rioprop and ordered Striplin to pay Rioprop
$5, 190.36. In addition, the trial court divested Rioprop of
any interest it had in the property and vested title of the
property in fee simple absolute to Striplin. The trial court
then explicitly stated that the judgment had disposed of all
matters as to all parties. Rioprop appealed to the Alabama
Supreme Court, which transferred the appeal to this court
pursuant to § 12-2-7(6), Ala. Code 1975.
argues on appeal that the trial court erred in dismissing its
claims for ejectment and to quiet title. In its brief on
appeal, Rioprop states that the trial court's order
"did not provide any clue as to what legal or factual
support upon which [sic] it based it's decision." In
their motions to dismiss the ejectment and quiet-title
claims, both Compass and Striplin argued that those claims
"'[T]he standard for granting a motion to dismiss
based upon the expiration of the statute of limitations is
whether the existence of the affirmative defense appears
clearly on the face of the pleading. Sims v.
Lewis, 374 So.2d 298 (Ala. 1979); Browning v. City
of Gadsden, 359 So.2d 361 (Ala. 1978); Wright &
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, Civil &
1357 [sic], at 605 (1969).'
"Braggs v. Jim Skinner Ford, Inc., 396 So.2d
1055, 1058 (Ala. 1981)."
Treadwell v. Farrow, [Ms. 2160667, Oct. 27, 2017]
___So. 3d___, ___(Ala. Civ. App. 2017).
and Striplin supported their contention that the ejectment
and quiet-title claims were barred by the applicable statute
of limitations by citing ...