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Atkins v. Saunders

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 5, 2019

BILLY EUGENE ATKINS ET AL.
v.
RICK ALLEN SAUNDERS ET AL.

          Session February 20, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Monroe County No. V07168P Lawrence Howard Puckett, Judge

         This appeal arises from a dispute between owners of a purportedly landlocked parcel of real property and their neighbors. The landlocked owners sought condemnation of a right-of-way or easement in order to access a public road. After the trial court determined that the parcel of land had no access and a jury of view marked a road through the land of one of the neighbors, other neighbors granted a right-of-way through their properties to the landlocked parcel, which provided access to a public road. The grantors of the right-of-way then moved for summary judgment. Following a hearing at which proof was taken, the trial court determined that the granted right-of-way required revisions to be an adequate and convenient outlet. After the grantors agreed to the revisions and recorded an amended right-of-way agreement, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          J. Lewis Kinnard, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Billy Eugene Atkins and Judith Atkins Caughron.

          John Carson III, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Rick Allen Saunders.

          H. Chris Trew and Charles C. Guinn, Jr., Athens, Tennessee, for the appellees, Lloyd Michael Atkins, Peggy Ann Atkins, Brandon Lloyd Atkins, and Melanie R. Atkins.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John W. McClarty and Thomas R. Frierson II, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         A.

         In 1962, the late Kinley Atkins acquired a large farm in Monroe County, Tennessee. After Mr. Atkins's death in the early 1990s, his widow, Marilyn Thomas Atkins, disclaimed a portion of the farm (the "Atkins Parcel"), and its ownership fell to their three children Billy Eugene Atkins, Judith Atkins Caughron, and Lloyd Michael Atkins, who held the 65-acre Atkins Parcel as tenants in common. Apparently, over the years, Mrs. Atkins continued to divide and convey portions of the large farm to other family members, resulting in a patchwork of owners surrounding the Atkins Parcel.

         On September 2, 2011, in the Circuit Court for Monroe County, Billy Eugene Atkins and Judith Atkins Caughron (the "Atkins Plaintiffs") filed their amended complaint alleging that they had no way to access the Atkins Parcel via a public road or highway.[1] They claimed that there was an unrecorded right-of-way over adjoining property owned by Rick Allen Saunders that served the Atkins Parcel but that Mr. Saunders had denied access to that right-of-way. Alternatively, if there were no right-of-way over the Saunders property, the Atkins Plaintiffs requested that the court "condemn a fifty (50) foot strip of land over [one of the neighboring] propert[ies] . . . for ingress, egress and all utilities" under the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 54-14-101 and 54-14-102 (2008). Among others, the Atkins Plaintiffs named as defendants Mr. Saunders and the co-owner of the Atkins Parcel, Lloyd Michael Atkins, along with his wife, Peggy Ann Atkins, and son, Brandon Lloyd Atkins. Like Mr. Saunders, the other defendants owned property adjacent to the Atkins Parcel.

         Mr. Saunders moved for summary judgment on the basis that the Atkins Parcel was not landlocked. In support of his motion, Mr. Saunders relied on several admissions from the Atkins Plaintiffs. Among other things, the Atkins Plaintiffs admitted that there was no right-of-way over Mr. Saunders's property that served the Atkins Parcel. They further admitted that timber harvested from the Atkins Parcel had been removed via a logging road and that a lake on the Atkins Parcel had been accessed via "a farm road" that traversed properties of the other defendants. The Atkins Plaintiffs also admitted that the ...


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