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Holladay v. Alexander

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 15, 2018

KIRBY W. HOLLADAY, JR; AND PAMELA J. HOLLADAY APPELLANTS
v.
FRANK L. ALEXANDER, II; AND ROYA ALEXANDER APPELLEES AND FRANK L. ALEXANDER, II; ROYA ALEXANDER; AND MICHAEL JOHNSON CROSS-APPELLANTS
v.
KIRBY W. HOLLADAY, JR; AND PAMELA J. HOLLADAY CROSS-APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE MITCHELL PERRY, JUDGE ACTION NO. 13-CI-004714

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: John H. Dwyer, Jr. Janice M. Theriot Louisville, Kentucky.

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Kirk Hoskins Darren Wolff Louisville, Kentucky.

          BEFORE: ACREE, DIXON, AND NICKELL, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          DIXON, JUDGE.

         Appellants/Cross-Appellees, Kirby and Pamela Holladay, appeal from an order of the Jefferson Circuit Court ruling that their improvements to a parking easement located on neighboring property owned by Appellees/Cross-Appellants, Frank and Roya Alexander, exceeded the scope of the easement. The Alexanders have filed a cross-appeal challenging the trial court's earlier order finding that the easement was valid.

         In July 2007, the Holladays purchased property located at 1407 St. James Court in Louisville, Kentucky. At the time of the purchase, the property had two separate easements providing alley access. It is the easement over the Alexanders' property located at 416 West Magnolia Avenue that is the subject of this appeal.[1] The easement was granted by the Alexanders' predecessors in interest (Wards) to the Holladays' predecessor in interest (Shewmaker) on June 7, 1998, and provided as follows:

WHEREAS, the Grantors and Grantee are the owners of adjacent properties and desire to cooperate to provide a parking and access area for the benefit of both the Grantors and Grantee, whereby access is given to the Grantee across the property of the Grantors, and parking area is provided on the property of the Grantors; and
WHEREAS, the property described in the attached Exhibit "A", is owned in fee simple by the Grantors, and is hereby referred to as Tract "A" [416 W. Magnolia], and the property described in Exhibit "A" is owned in fee simple by the Grantee, and is hereinafter referred to as Tract "B" [1407 St. James Ct.];
Therefore, in consideration of One Dollar and other good and valuable consideration, consisting of Grantee's performance of work in developing the parking area and the access way and the Grantee's agreeing to bear the cost of same, the Grantors hereby grant, assign and convey this easement in, to and upon and over that portion of Tract A, described as follows:
Consisting of the southernmost fifteen (15) feet of Tract A, extending from the east boundary of Tract A, which is contiguous with the east boundary line of Tract B.
The purpose of the easement is to provide pedestrian and vehicular access, ingress and egress from the alley between Fourth Avenue and St. James Court, which is contiguous with the east boundary line of Tract A, across Tract A for the benefit of Tract B.
The Owner of Tract B, in further consideration of the granting of this easement, hereby covenants to maintain and make necessary repairs to the paving and landscaping and to develop parking spaces for the benefit of Tract B.

         Evidently, the original condition of the easement made it inaccessible to vehicles. The original grantee, Mr. Shewmaker, removed a retaining wall and cleared away brush so that a four-wheel drive vehicle could access and park in the easement area. When the Holladays purchased the property, they graded the easement area to the alley and graveled it. Subsequently, in 2012, the Holladays poured a flat concrete pad for parking, and later erected retaining walls and landscaped around the pad.

         Apparently, sometime in 2013, the Alexanders rejected an offer by the Holladays to purchase the easement property and, for the first time, declared that they did not recognize the validity or existence of an easement. Soon thereafter, the Alexanders began leaving a rental car parked in the easement area, as well as spray painted their Magnolia Avenue address on the concrete pad and posted a sign that any car parked there would be towed. In response to the Alexanders' actions, the Holladays filed the instant action in the Jefferson Circuit Court in September 2013, seeking a declaration of rights establishing their dominant estate property rights in the easement, an injunction prohibiting the Alexanders from interfering with those property rights, and damages. The Alexanders thereafter filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment arguing that the easement (1) was an invalid executory contract; (2) was only binding upon the parties to the contract and not their successors in interest; (3) violated the statute of frauds because the Alexanders did not sign the agreement; and (4) did not run with the land. The Holladays also filed a motion for a partial summary judgment.

         On March 21, 2014, the trial court rendered an opinion and order finding the easement to be valid and granting partial summary judgment in favor of the Holladays. Therein, the trial court stated:

In order to properly interpret the language of the easement the Court should determine the intent of the parties in making the easement. To ascertain the intent of the parties regarding the deed, one turns to the language of the deed itself. "If the language is unambiguous, the intent of the parties at the time the easement agreement was executed must be determined from the context of the agreement itself." Sawyers v. Beller, 384 S.W.3d 107, ...

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