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Saufley v. Reed

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

May 3, 2019

GEORGE E. SAUFLEY, II AND BRUCE GILBERT Appellants
v.
JAMES R. REED, JR. Appellee

          APPEAL FROM LINCOLN CIRCUIT COURT HON. JEFFREY T. BURDETTE, JUDGE ACTION NO. 15-CI-00211

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANTS: J. Paul Long, Jr. Stanford, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: J. Stan Lee Langdon Ryan Worley Lexington, Kentucky

          BEFORE: JONES, MAZE, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.

          OPINION AFFIRMING

          TAYLOR, JUDGE

         George E. Saufley, II, and Bruce Gilbert bring this appeal from a December 5, 2016, order of the Lincoln Circuit Court granting summary judgment in favor of James R. Reed, Jr. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Saufley and Gilbert raise cattle together on a farm owned by Saufley in Lincoln County. Saufley's farm adjoins property owned by Reed. In March of 2015, Saufley and Gilbert's cattle allegedly consumed yew bushes growing on Reeds' property that had grown through the fence line onto Saufley's property. Fifteen of the jointly owned cows died from consuming the yew bushes, that presumably are poisonous to cattle.

         Reed inherited his land from his father in 2007 and had not personally lived on the land since about 1992. Reed rented the land to tenants and rarely visited the property. The yew bushes were apparently growing on the land when he inherited the property. Reed had no knowledge the bushes were poisonous or that any branches of the bushes had grown over on Saufley's farm. Neither Saufley nor Gilbert ever complained to Reed (or his tenant) about the bushes.

         Saufley and Gilbert initiated this negligence action against Reed in July of 2015. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Reed by order entered December 5, 2016, concluding there was no duty owed by Reed to Saufley and Gilbert as concerns the wild yew bushes growing on Reed's property. This appeal follows.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The standard of review upon appeal of an order granting summary judgment is "whether the trial court correctly found that there were no genuine issues as to any material fact and that the moving party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Scifres v. Kraft, 916 S.W.2d 779, 781 (Ky. App. 1996) (citing Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 56.03). Upon a motion for summary judgment, the record is viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and that "all doubts are to be resolved in his favor." Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Serv. Ctr., Inc., 807 S.W.2d 476, 480 (Ky. 1991). We review a trial court's decision to grant summary judgment de novo. Brown v. Griffin, 505 S.W.3d 777, 781 (Ky. App. 2016).

         ANALYSIS

         The facts in this care are not in dispute. Poisonous bushes on Reed's property grew across the boundary line of Saufley's property and were fatally consumed by Saufley and Gilbert's cows. None of the parties involved knew of the toxic nature of the plants prior to their consumption by the cows. The sole legal issue on appeal looks to whether ...


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