Appeal from the Chancery Court for Franklin County No. 15,854 Jeffrey F. Stewart, Chancellor
In this case, a brother and sister dispute who is the actual owner of property formerly owned by their deceased parents. We are asked to decide if the trial court properly relied upon promissory estoppel and adverse possession to recognize that the brother had a defense to this claim for possession. We affirm the decision of the trial court.
Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Franklin County Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ben H. Cantrell, Presiding Judge, M.S.
Ben H. Cantrell, P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which William B. Cain, J. and Don R. Ash, Sp.J. joined.
Harvey and Frankie McBee owned a large tract of property in the Sewanee area of Franklin County. Frankie McBee gave her son Leroy McBee, the appellee, permission to keep his daughter's horse on a portion of that land in the mid 1970's. We will refer to this portion of the property as "the Hillside." He mowed the land, built a fence and built a barn, and continued to treat the property as his own. His sister, Sharon Elliott, and her husband, the appellants, also lived on the property and helped care for Harvey and Frankie McBee when they became ill.
At a family meeting, shortly before Frankie McBee's death on June 6, 1984, Frankie McBee discussed which of her children would receive what piece of property. Despite expressing an intent for Leroy to have the Hillside, Mr. and Mrs. McBee deeded the house and a portion of the property to Sharon and her husband. The deed included the Hillside in the description. The possession of the property did not change, however, and Leroy continued to treat the Hillside as his own.
In 1993 Leroy began constructing a house on the property. Mr. and Mrs. Elliott did not complain. The construction involved building a septic tank and drainage system, building a driveway within 50-75 feet of the Elliotts' house, and extending electric and telephone service to the site. Although the house was never completed, the construction faltered because of a lack of funds, not because the Elliotts protested that the house was being built on their land.
On March 5, 1999, Appellee filed a complaint in the Franklin County Chancery Court. The complaint stated that the conveyance of the property to the Elliotts had been made subject to the condition that the Hillside would be given to Appellee. Appellee requested the trial court to decree that he owned the Hillside. The Appellants filed an answer and counter-complaint on August 18, 1999 asking that Appellee be required to remove all fencing and improvements on the Hillside. On August 17, 2000, Appellee filed a non-suit for his cause of action. The parties continued on to trial solely on the counter-complaint on September 21, 2000. The trial court held for the Appellee in a judgment filed December 1, 2000.
In the Final Order the trial court made these findings of fact:
1. All parties were aware of the intention of the mother of Leroy McBee and Sharon Elliott to deed the subject property to the Counter-Defendant.
2. The subject property had been referred to in the family as "Leroy's hillside" according to the testimony of ...