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Sklar v. Clancy

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 2, 2019

MARY ANN SKLAR
v.
PATRICK CLANCY, ET AL.

          Session April 17, 2019

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Jefferson County No. 16-CV-116 Telford E. Forgety, Jr., Chancellor

         This appeal involves a review of the denial of a motion pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. We affirm the ruling of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Jeffrey A. Armstrong, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellants,

          Mary Ann Sklar and Rosemary Sklar. Luke D. Durham, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Patrick Clancy.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. MCCLARTY, JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         This matter involves a 30-acre farm located at 2563 East U.S. Highway 25/70, Dandridge, Tennessee ("the Real Property"). Mary Ann Sklar ("Seller"), the owner of the Real Property, entered into a land purchase contract with Patrick Clancy on September 6, 2016. The agreement stated that "[t]he purpose of this contract permits the purchaser, Patrick Clancy, exclusive use and ownership of the 30 acres . . . owned currently by seller, Mary Ann Sklar . . . ." It further provided that "[i]n return, Mary Ann Sklar, Rosemary Sklar, Thomas Cartwright will have right to occupy the property with agreement to terms in separate binding contract." The contract was acknowledged by a notary public and was "Witnessed by" Rosemary Sklar. The Real Property was conveyed to Clancy by quitclaim deed executed by Seller on September 8, 2016, and recorded with the Register of Deeds for Jefferson County, Tennessee, on September 20, 2016.[1]

         Seller is a widow in her 70s who claimed she engaged Clancy regarding the care of animals on the farm that she had inherited in 1985 from her mother. She contends that Clancy tricked her into signing the quitclaim deed rather than a business contract.

         Clancy asserts that he agreed to care for Seller's animals, assume all debt and liens on the property, and pay any outstanding property taxes in return for Seller transferring the Real Property and the animals to him. According to Clancy, he intended to open the property to the public for educational purposes. He stated that the Sklars were "to continue to reside on the property pursuant to [a] later agreed upon lease."

         Seller initiated the instant litigation seeking to rescind the quitclaim deed to the Real Property. Clancy responded that if the quitclaim deed was to be rescinded, he would be entitled to recover the consideration he paid for it, including paid liens and taxes and the value of any improvement to the Real Property. Seller followed up with an "Amendment to Petition to Rescind Quitclaim Deed" on March 6, 2017, requesting that the land purchase contract be declared void or rescinded.

         A bench trial occurred on November 29, 2017. In the judgment entered on January 12, 2018, the trial court ordered as follows:

The Petition, as amended, to rescind the parties' quitclaim deed and land purchase contract is granted, expressly conditioned upon the Petitioner's payment of $21, 800 to the clerk of this court, for the benefit of respondent, within forty-five days of the trial, on or before January 13, 2018. If petitioner does not pay $21, 800 into the clerk of the court on or before January 13, 2018, the quitclaim deed and land purchase contract are not rescinded and are, therefore, upheld and found by this court to be valid and enforceable[.]

         In the memorandum opinion incorporated by reference, the trial court observed as follows:

… [T]his contract permits the purchaser, Patrick Clancy, exclusive use and ownership . . . of 30 acres . . . .In return, Mary Ann Skylar [sic], Rosemary Skylar [sic], Thomas Cartwright will have the right to occupy the property with agreement to terms in separate binding contract.
The paragraph is contradictory in itself . . . .
You get the right to occupy the property in the Skylars [sic], what is it? Is it a life estate[?] The land purchase contract doesn't call it that. Is it a lease? The land purchase contract doesn't call it that. Is it a license? It doesn't call it that.
It says that there are terms in a separate binding contract, which indicates to the court that [there] were to have been other terms to define the Skylars [sic] right to occupy the property. That's what it says. There were to have been other terms. Well apparently those other terms were never settled. There is nothing in the record to show that they were settled what those other terms ...

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