HERMAN ROLAND, JR., ET AL.
KELLI BRIDWELL, ET AL.
Session August 26, 2014
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Carter County No. 28382 John C. Rambo, Chancellor
Mark S. Dugger, Elizabethton, Tennessee, for the appellants, Herman Roland, Jr., and Diana Roland.
Keith Bowers, Jr., and Joshua A. Hardin, Elizabethton, Tennessee, for the appellees, Kelli Bridwell and Robert Bridwell.
John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.
John W. McClarty, Judge
The plaintiffs in this action, Herman Roland, Jr., and Diana Roland ("the Rolands"), are neighbors of the defendants, Kelli Bridwell and Robert Bridwell ("the Bridwells") in Elizabethton, Tennessee. The property currently owned by the Bridwells, 2514 Stateline Road, was owned previously by Haskell and Eula Felty ("the Feltys"). Mr. Roland acquired his property, 2512 Stateline Road, from his father, Herman Roland, Sr., in 1979. Mr. Roland later conveyed a one half undivided interest in 2512 Stateline Road to his wife, Diana Roland, creating an estate by the entireties.
On October 15, 1980, the Feltys, the Bridwells' predecessors in title, and Mr. Roland executed a "Deed for Easements for Joint Driveway" ("the Easement"). The Easement conveyed to Mr. Roland and the Feltys the perpetual right and easement of egress, ingress, and regress over and upon the joint driveway located between 2512 and 2514 Stateline Road. The Easement specifically stated that it was an appurtenant easement -- it was intended to run with both parcels of land and to bind all heirs and assigns forever.
The following year, on April 7, 1981, Mr. Roland and the Feltys entered into another agreement in which they agreed to the shared use of a garage located at the end of the driveway they shared. Additionally, they agreed to share the maintenance for the garage and the driveway leading to the garage. The document provided that the shared use and maintenance of the garage and driveway was appurtenant to and runs with the land.
In April 1990, the Feltys transferred 2514 Stateline Road to Robin Felty Scamuffa.A little over a decade later, in June 2000, Ms. Scamuffa transferred 2514 Stateline Road to Larry and Linda Blalock ("the Blalocks"), the predecessors in title to the Bridwells.
In July 2002, the Rolands and the Blalocks agreed to tear down the shared garage due to its dilapidated condition. No change was made to the shared driveway agreement. Thereafter, the Blalocks engaged in the following actions on their property: removed the concrete pad and asphalt around the former location of the garage; erected a fence and planted trees along the shared driveway; landscaped the back yard; and constructed a new gravel driveway on the other side of their property.
In September 2012, the Blalocks transferred 2514 Stateline Road to the Bridwells, the current owners of record. Later that year, on Christmas Day, a dispute occurred when a guest of the Bridwells' parked on the shared driveway. The Rolands thereafter filed this lawsuit on January 3, 2013, alleging that the Blalocks, the Bridwells' predecessors in title, had abandoned the joint driveway easement based on the changes they had made on their property. Mrs. Roland later testified at trial that the Blalocks never used the easement for ingress and egress after the gravel driveway was constructed.
At the trial, Mr. Blalock related as follows: "I will state categorically that we never had any intent to abandon that portion of the right of way that was on our property, now the Bridwells' property." Mr. Blalock testified that it was a mutual decision to tear down the shared garage due to its condition. He provided that
the roof on our side of the garage was partially missing . . . Water had gotten into the roof trusses and the ceiling joists, et cetera, and were rotted out. The old garage was leaning I'm guesstimating a good ten degrees towards town. So, it was pretty much an unsafe structure. I wouldn't walk under it.
He further noted that the concrete pad and asphalt where the garage once stood were removed due to water runoff from that area causing mold and mildew problems along the back of the Blalocks' house. According to Mr. Blalock, the trees were planted for privacy purposes and the fence was erected to keep his dogs contained.
Contrary to the assertions of Mrs. Roland, Mr. Blalock claimed that even after all the actions were taken, he, his wife, and their guests continued to make use of the easement near the front of the driveway for ingress and egress by automobile. He asserted that the easement was used to roll his garbage can to the road for pickup and to trim the trees planted along the driveway. Mr. Blalock further observed that the brick walkway from his front door to the shared driveway was left in place to access the easement.
After hearing the testimony and reviewing the exhibits presented at trial, the trial court concluded, inter alia, that the Blalocks had not ...