JAMES M. ROBINSON, ET AL.
PULTE HOMESTENNESSEE LIMITED PARTNERSHIP
Session November 9, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Wilson County No. 2013-CV-54 John
D. Wootten, Jr., Judge.
of an unimproved parcel of real property filed suit against
their grantor's seller, claiming that the seller violated
the warranty of title that it issued to the purchasers'
grantor. This action was filed several years after a related
class action lawsuit was concluded in which the trial court
ruled that the class plaintiffs' units were properly
classified as condominiums rather than fee simple estates.
The trial court in the instant action dismissed the complaint
on grounds of res judicata and estoppel by deed, among other
grounds. The purchasers appeal, and we affirm the trial
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Huffstutter, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, James
M. Robinson and Martha P. Robinson.
Russell B. Morgan and Frankie Neil Spero, Nashville,
Tennessee, for the appellee, Pulte Homes Tennessee Limited
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Richard H. Dinkins and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.
D. BENNETT, JUDGE.
Factual and Procedural Background
M. Robinson and Martha P. Robinson purchased an interest in
an unimproved parcel of real property from Howard W. Lipman
in June 2005. Mr. Lipman had acquired his interest in the
property described as "Lot 3" or as "Unit
3" from Pulte Homes Tennessee Limited Partnership
("Pulte Homes") in July 2000. The warranty deed
from Pulte Homes to Mr. Lipman stated that Pulte Homes was
transferring and conveying to Mr. Lipman:
LAND in Wilson County, Tennessee, being UNIT No. 3, on the
plan of Beacon Hill Village, Phase 3, according to the Master
Deed of record in Book 411, page 92, as amended in Book 413,
page 476; Book 419, page 391; and Book 421, page 473, in the
Register's Office of Wilson County, Tennessee, and more
particularly described in Plat Book 23, page 134, in the
Register's Office of Wilson County, Tennessee, to which
plat reference is hereby made for a more particular
BEING a portion of the property conveyed to Pulte Homes
Tennessee Limited Partnership, by Deed of Record in Book 461,
page 935, Register's Office of Wilson County, Tennessee.
. . .
warranty deed from Mr. Lipman to the Robinsons included
essentially the same description of Unit No. 3 and described
it as "the same property conveyed to Howard W. Lipman by
deed dated July 28, 2000, " that was recorded in the
Wilson County Register's Office. The Master Deed
referenced in Pulte Homes' deed to Mr. Lipman was dated
August 31, 1988, and it established the Beacon Hill Village
Condominium ("the Condominium"). In the definitions
section, the Master Deed defined "Unit" as:
the fee simple estate within a Building, as such area is
identified, located and described on the Plat and as
hereinafter set forth.
(1) The boundaries of each Unit shall be as follows:
(i) The upper boundary shall be its highest ceiling,
(ii) The lower boundary shall be the upper unfinished surface
of its floor (i.e. that surface directly beneath the
carpeting, hardwood floors or other floor covering),
(iii) The vertical boundaries (measuring the horizontal area
of a Unit) shall be the perimeter walls.
Master Deed provided that Beacon Hill Village Condominium
Association, Inc. ("the Association" or "the
Condominium Association") would be in charge of the
Condominium's operation. Paragraph 3 of the Master Deed
(d) In the event of expansion, the definitions used in this
Master Deed automatically shall be extended to encompass and
refer to the Condominium as so expanded. All conveyances of
Units after expansion shall be deemed effective to transfer
rights in the Condominium as so expanded.
(e) All Additional Land, Units, Common Elements and Limited
Common Elements hereafter added shall be subject to the
terms, conditions and restrictions and entitled to the
rights, benefits and privileges of this Master Deed and Plat
and of all Supplements or Amendments respectively thereto,
and the Condominium, as expanded from time to time, shall, at
all times constitute one and only one Condominium under this
Master Deed and the [Horizontal Property] Act.
within the "Additional Land" of Beacon Hill Village
was a section of real property referred to as "Phase III
of Beacon Hill Village, " which encompassed the property
at issue, Unit 3. Pulte Homes acquired title to the
Additional Land in February 1999. Pulte Homes and the
Association entered into an agreement whereby Pulte Homes was
to develop and construct forty attached and ten detached
condominium units and incorporate them within the Master
Deed. Lot 3 is one of the detached units that Pulte Homes
sold to Mr. Lipman in July 2000.
Robinsons knew before they purchased Unit 3 that it was part
of Phase III of Beacon Hill Village, which was governed by
the Condominium Association. They knew they would be required
to pay fees, assessments, and dues to the Association and
that the architectural review committee would have to approve
the design of the house they planned to construct. Mr.
Robinson testified as follows:
Q: So when you closed on the property, it was your
understanding that Lot 3 was part of the Beacon Hill
Condominium Association; is that right?
A: Yes. It was my understanding that we bought a lot that was
in the condominium association, that I had found the best of
both worlds, that I was buying a lot on which I could build a
house for my retirement house. And by being a part of the
condominium association, somebody else would cut my grass.
And I got to pay for that as a part of my dues, but somebody
else would cut the grass, garbage pickup would be included,
the tennis courts across the street and down would be
[avail]able for my use.
the Robinsons also believed that they were purchasing a fee
simple interest in the land and house they were planning to
build rather than merely in the interior space of their
Stillwell Class Action
October 2011, Alex and Kathryn Stillwell, who were the owners
of Unit 2, filed a class action against the Association,
Pulte Homes, and the Wilson County Planning Commission
asserting claims for declaratory judgment and injunctive
relief on behalf of themselves and the other owners of the
nine detached units in Phase III. The Robinsons were members
of the class. In the Stillwell action, the
plaintiffs alleged that they were fee simple owners of the
detached units of Phase III and asked the ...