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Vise v. Pearcy Tennessee River Resort Inc.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

July 15, 2015


Session May 13, 2015

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Decatur County No. 4119 Martha Brasfield, Chancellor No. W2014-00640-COA-R3-CV

Robert I. Thomason, Jr., Waverly, Tennessee, and J. Michael Ivey, Parsons, Tennessee, for the appellants, Stacy D. Vise, Tara Vise, Ricky Smith, and Tina Smith.

Ricky L. Wood, Parsons, Tennessee, for the appellees, Pearcy Tennessee River Resort, Inc., Louis Jefferson Pearcy, Paul Davis Family Limited Partnership, and Estate of Mable Brasher.

Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.



I. Background

This case arises from a private condemnation action against Louis Jefferson Pearcy and the Pearcy Tennessee River Resort, Inc. (together, "Appellees").[1] On September 15, 2006, Stacy D. Vise, his wife Tara Vise, Ricky Smith, and his wife Tina Smith, (collectively, "Appellants"), jointly purchased a parcel of land located in Decatur County ("the property"). The Tennessee River forms the eastern boundary of this property, and the Appellees' property forms the southern boundary of Appellants' property. The Tennessee Valley Authority ("TVA") owns the property that bounds the Appellants' property on the west and north. Originally, the Appellants' crossed dirt roads over TVA property to access their property from the north or west. However, the development of the Appellees' property provided Appellants a different route to access their property.

In 2004, the Appellees platted their land and began to develop it as a private resort. In order to develop their property as a resort, the Appellees applied for an easement from TVA to cross TVA"owned lands located south of their property. TVA granted the Appellees a "nonexclusive permanent easement…for the following purposes, namely: the right to enter upon the hereinafter described land, in accordance with plans approved in advance and in writing by TVA, to grade, level, pave, build, maintain, repair, build and use a road…." After TVA granted the easement, the Appellees constructed a "blacktop road" to access the lots being developed on their property. The blacktop road begins at the public road closest to the Appellees' property, which is located just south of the Appellees' property. However, the Appellees' property is separated from the public road by a strip of TVA-owned land. The blacktop road then crosses TVA-owned lands that separate the public road from the Appellees' property. The blacktop road spans the entirety of the Appellees' property and ends at the southernmost part of the Appellants' property. After the blacktop road was completed, the Appellants began using it to access their property, instead of using the previous routes over TVA-owned land. As a result of the exclusive use of the blacktop road, the dirt roads originally used by the Appellants fell into disrepair and became impassable.

Sometime in 2006, the Appellants began to inquire of TVA about an easement for the purpose of developing their property as an "RV park, " and, in July 2008, formally applied for an easement from TVA. On April 10, 2009, TVA granted an easement "specifically limited to allowing ingress and egress traffic for recreational campground purposes on adjoining private lands." This easement was to be located "across TVA land that is presently subject to a non”exclusive easement previously granted to [Mr. Pearcy]." TVA elaborated that "[a]ny such grant of easement would be contingent upon [the Appellants] obtaining land rights across [the Appellees'] property." The Appellees, however, refused to grant an easement to the Appellants for their intended purpose of developing an RV park. On March 10, 2010, the Appellants and Appellees jointly applied to TVA to locate the Appellants' easement elsewhere; however, TVA denied this application and reiterated that it would only grant an easement over the blacktop road.

On May 7, 2009, the Appellants filed a private condemnation action against the Appellees pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 54-14-101 et seq. The Appellees filed their answer on June 8, 2009, arguing that Appellants had adequate access to their property for their current purposes and that the Appellants had failed to join TVA as an indispensable party. That same day, the Appellees filed a motion to join TVA to the lawsuit. In a consent order dated September 3, 2009, the parties waived the right to a jury or to have a jury of view survey the property. Appellants filed an amended complaint on February 23, 2010, requesting specific relief and naming other owners of other adjoining properties as defendants.

On March 15, 2010, the Appellees moved the trial court to join TVA as an indispensable party. On March 22, 2011, the trial court ordered that TVA be joined as a defendant, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 19. 01. On June 1, 2011, TVA filed to remove the case to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. On March 14, 2012, the District Court dismissed TVA as a defendant in the case and remanded the case back to the trial court.

In a consent order dated February 18, 2014, the parties again waived the right to a jury of view and the right of appeal to a jury from a jury of view's findings. The consent order also submitted "all issues" to the trial court. The trial court heard the case on February 18, 2014. In an order dated March 4, 2014, the trial court found that "the [Appellants] have an adequate and convenient access to their property to use the property for farming…." The trial court further found that, because the Appellants "have ingress and egress access which is ...

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