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Beulah Payne v. Joel Lynn Rutledge

February 8, 2013

BEULAH PAYNE
APPELLANT
v.
JOEL LYNN RUTLEDGE, EXECUTRIX FOR THE ESTATE OF STANLEY RUTLEDGE; AND JOEL LYNN RUTLEDGE
APPELLEES



APPEAL FROM KNOX CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JOHN KNOX MILLS, JUDGE ACTION NO. 10-CI-00404

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Acree, Chief Judge

RENDERED: FEBRUARY 8, 2013; 10:00 A.M.

TO BE PUBLISHED

OPINION

AFFIRMING

BEFORE: ACREE, CHIEF JUDGE; MOORE AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.

This matter involves a dispute over a shared driveway. Beulah Payne filed suit against Stanley and Joel Lynn Rutledge claiming they had breached an agreement concerning maintenance of an easement, demanding that the easement be terminated, and seeking damages for the alleged breach. The Knox Circuit Court entered summary judgment in favor of the Rutledges, finding the uncontested evidence demonstrated they had not breached the agreement and furthermore, breach of the agreement would not warrant termination of the easement. We are asked on appeal to determine whether the circuit court correctly construed the agreement as a matter of law. We affirm the judgment in its entirety.

I. Facts and procedure

Payne and her husband acquired a plot of land in 1976.*fn1 They lived in the house which had been built on that land. In 1983, they conveyed a portion of the property to their son and daughter-in-law, Earl and Paula Payne,who built their own home there.Rather than building a separate driveway for the new home, Earl and Paulasimply used the driveway which served the home in which Payne and her husband lived.
Earl and Paula sold their home to Stanley Rutledge in 1993.*fn2 Nearly simultaneously with the sale of the home, Rutledge entered into an agreement with Payne entitled, "Easement and private road maintenance agreement." The relevant substance of the agreement follows:

WHEREAS, the parties share a driveway located between their respective properties; and WHEREAS, the parties desire to set forth with particularity[] their agreement regarding maintenance of the aforesaid driveway;

NOW THEREFORE[,] for and in a valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, the parties do hereby ratify the easement of the other in and to the driveway existing between their properties[] and agree that all costs and expenses incidental to the maintenance, repair[,] or rebuilding of . said driveway shall be equally born[e] by the parties with [Payne] paying one-half of such costs and expenses, and [Rutledge] paying one-half of such costs and expenses.

Prior to 2003, the driveway had always been merely dirt or gravel covered. Payne then decided to pave it with concrete. At the same time, she also chose to pour concrete for a walkway and a step on her property which were not part of the easement. She did not alert Rutledge to her intention regarding the driveway, however, until the day the workers came to pour the concrete. She later demanded that the Rutledges pay one-half of her expenses, which she estimated to be $3,500.

The Rutledges refused to contribute to the cost of the concrete work. Payne filed suit against her neighbors in 2010 alleging they had breached the contract by failing to pay for half of the work and seeking ...


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