EX PARTE Ralph EUSTACE et al. In re Ralph Eustace et al.
James Ray Wilbourn et al.
Circuit Court, CV-04-150, Court of Civil Appeals, 2161079
R. Eustace , Scottsboro, for petitioners.
William W. Tally of Tally & Tally, Scottsboro, for
respondents James Ray Wilbourn and Karen K. Wilbourn.
J. Saunders , Montgomery, for amicus curiae Alabama Forestry
Association, in support of the petitioners.
Hamilton Wilson and Miland F. Simpler III of Ball, Ball,
Matthews & Novak, P.A., Montgomery, for amicus curiae
Alabama Association of Realtors, in support of the
Eustace, Linda Eustace, and Daryl Eustace sued James Ray
Wilbourn and his wife Karen Wilbourn in the Jackson Circuit
Court ("the trial court"), alleging a trespass to
land and conversion of timber. The Wilbourns filed a
counterclaim, seeking to establish title to the subject land
and to recover in tort for intentional interference with a
contractual relationship. The trial court entered a judgment
in favor of the Eustaces on the trespass and
conversion-of-timber claims and determined that the Eustaces
were entitled to recover compensatory damages on those
claims. The trial court also entered a judgment in favor of
the Wilbourns on the claim asserting an intentional
interference with a contractual relationship and determined
that the Wilbourns were entitled to an award of compensatory
damages on that claim.
Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial
court, without an opinion. Eustace v. Wilbourn, 285 So.3d 787
(Ala. Civ. App. 2018)(table). The Eustaces petitioned this
Court for a writ of certiorari, asserting that the Court of
Civil Appeals' decision affirming the trial court's
judgment on the Wilbourns' claim of tortious interference
with a contractual relationship was in conflict with this
Court's decision in Merchants National Bank of Mobile v.
Steiner, 404 So.2d 14 (Ala. 1981). We granted the petition
and, upon review, determine that the Court of Civil Appeals
lacked jurisdiction over the case, because the appeal was
taken from a nonfinal judgment.
and Procedural History
2002, the Wilbourns purchased approximately 300 acres of land
from Ollie Fowler. Before the Wilbourns purchased the
property, Fowler had showed the Wilbourns what Fowler thought
were the boundary lines of the property. The land purchased
by the Wilbourns adjoined land owned by Ralph Eustace. Ralph
Eustace had lived on his property for 82 years, excepting the
time he spent in the military.
2004, the Wilbourns entered into an auction contract with
Fowler Auction and Real Estate Service, Inc. ("Fowler
Auction Company"), pursuant to which Fowler Auction
Company agreed to auction the Wilbourns' property for a
fee of $14,000. Before the property was auctioned, the
Wilbourns had the timber on their property cut. Ray Wilbourn
testified that he told the loggers to stay 150 feet away from
what he thought was the property line between his property
and the Eustaces' property. While Wilbourn was having the
timber cut from his property, he also had a surveyor on the
property surveying it for the upcoming auction. Ray Wilbourn
testified that one evening the surveyor informed him that Ray
Wilbourn had a "problem," because Wilbourn had cut
timber on land owned by Ralph Eustace. Wilbourn immediately
ceased cutting timber that evening and contacted Ralph
Eustace the following morning to explain that his crew had
cut a significant amount of timber on Ralph Eustace's
side of the property line. In order to survey the area
together, Ray Wilbourn testified that he and Ralph Eustace
rode to the area where the timber had been cut. After
learning of the error, Ray Wilbourn did not cut any
additional timber on Ralph Eustace's property.
Eustace testified that approximately $40,000 worth of timber
had been mistakenly cut from his property. The Eustaces
presented testimony from a certified forester that indicated
that the value of the timber removed from the property was
approximately $35,810. Ralph Eustace further testified that
his property was valued at approximately $97,000 before the
timber was cut from the property ...