JAMES MOSES, ET AL.
REBECCA ELROD, ET AL.
Session: August 21, 2019
from the Chancery Court for Meigs County No. 4624 Frank V.
Williams, III, Chancellor
plaintiffs appeal the trial court's decision concerning
the ownership of real property. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Franklin Chancey, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellants,
James and Nancy Moses.
Chris Trew, Athens, Tennessee, for the appellees, Rebecca
Elrod, Christopher Hennessee, and Matthew Moses.
W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Charles D. Susano, Jr., J. and D. Michael Swiney, C.J.,
W. MCCLARTY, JUDGE
1999, Rebecca and Jack Elrod (collectively "the
Elrods") purchased the property at issue for $35,000
after obtaining a loan of approximately $47,500. The
remainder of the loan was used to improve the property. The
original loan was made for a term of five years with a
balloon payment due at the end of the term. The loan was
refinanced when the balloon payment became due and again in
the purchase of the property, Kim Hennessee Moses (Mrs.
Elrod's daughter, who is now deceased); her husband,
James Moses; and son, Matthew Moses have lived in the
residence and remitted payment throughout their residency. At
times, the Elrods also made payments. There is no record of
payments made, and neither Kim nor James had access to the
mortgage account. Payments were made by cash, check, or
automatic transfer but were sporadic until Kim's death in
2006. Since that time, James submitted monthly payments
through social security death benefits paid to him as trustee
for Matthew. In 2007, the Elrods obtained another $20,000
loan for further renovations completed by James.
married Nancy Moses in December 2012, and he and Nancy
("Plaintiffs") completed additional renovations.
Mrs. Elrod transferred the property to Christopher Hennessey
and Matthew Moses in December 2017. Plaintiffs filed suit
against Mrs. Elrod, Christopher, and Matthew (collectively
"Defendants"), claiming that the payments made to the
Elrods were in fulfillment of an oral loan obligation for the
purchase of the property. They requested the imposition of a
constructive trust. Defendants denied any existence of an
oral loan and claimed that even if one had been negotiated,
any such loan would be prohibited by the statute of frauds.
They claimed that the home was purchased for James and Kim to
rent but that the Elrods always intended to retain ownership
of the property and later transfer the property to Matthew.
case proceeded to a bench trial, at which James claimed that
the Elrods agreed to finance the residence because he could
not obtain a loan due to his credit. He claimed that Mrs.
Elrod advised him of their monthly payment obligation and
that they either remitted payment through an automatic
transfer or in cash. He admitted that his name was not
included on the deed to the property at the time of purchase
and that their agreement was not in writing. He testified
that Mrs. Elrod visited the house often and was aware of the
extensive renovations completed by him. Further, she referred
to the residence as his house and asked permission to move a
mobile home onto the property.
James admitted that the Elrods purchased the materials for
the initial renovations and for the renovations in 2007. He
further conceded that he did not reside in the house for the
entirety of the time prior to Kim's death because they
had a disagreement that led to him moving out. He agreed that
she also did not live in the residence at some point while
they were no longer in a relationship. He admitted that he
may have also missed a few payments but claimed that he
remitted payment throughout the majority of his residency. He
confirmed that he remitted payment from Matthew's social
security benefits following Kim's death.
testified that he and Nancy also completed extensive
renovations on the residence using their own funds. He and
Nancy introduced evidence concerning their extensive
renovations of the property beyond that paid for by the
Elrods. Nancy stated that she would not have invested money
in repairs had she been made aware that the property would
not transfer to them. She claimed that James advised her that
the property would become theirs as soon as the loan was
fulfilled. She acknowledged that she had two conversations
with Mrs. Elrod in which she asked whether she would be
thrown out of the house if her husband passed away. She noted
that Mrs. Elrod did ...