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Suedkamp v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

July 16, 2019

WILLIAM C. SUEDKAMP and PERSIMMON RIDGE VINEYARDS, LLC, Appellants,
v.
DARREL TAYLOR, MINT PROPERTIES, LLC, and ELIJAH MCARDLE, Respondents, and LISA TAYLOR, Respondent/Cross-Appellant, and JOHN DOE and JANE DOE, Defendants.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County 15JE-CC00890 Honorable Troy A. Cardona

          OPINION

          JAMES M. DOWD, JUDGE

         1. Introduction.

         This dispute concerns the nature and scope of two roadway easements that were created long before the parties here came into possession of the two adjacent parcels in question. In 1982, Paul Ellis, the original owner of all the property before us, subdivided it, retained the first parcel for himself, sold the second parcel, and created two roadway easements that passed from his parcel over the second parcel to two public roadways on the other side.

         Appellant Suedkamp became owner of the first parcel in 2010 and he owned and operated the Persimmon Ridge Vineyards winery on that property. Respondent/cross-appellant Lisa Taylor acquired the second parcel over which the easements passed and her now-ex-husband Darrel Taylor occupied the property with her. After Appellants brought this suit for damages arising out of the alleged interference by the Taylors with their use of the easements, the following summary judgment motions were filed and heard and the trial court ruled as follows:

         1. The trial court granted in part Appellants' motion for summary judgment finding that the easements were valid and enforceable appurtenant easements, the court enjoined the Taylors from any further interference with Appellants' use of the easements, but the court denied the remainder of the motion which had sought to establish the scope and permissible use of the easements and that Appellants were damaged by the Taylors' conduct with respect to the easements. As a result, those issues remained for trial.

         2. The trial court granted Darrel Taylor's motion for summary judgment finding that because defendants did not have notice of the easements, Appellants were not entitled to any damages as a result of the alleged interference with and damage to the easements.

         3. The trial court denied Lisa Taylor's motion for summary judgment.

         Now, Appellants seek review of the trial court's partial summary judgment that Appellants were not entitled to damages based on the court's reasoning that Appellants' failure to demonstrate that defendants had notice of the easements precluded any award of damages.

         Lisa Taylor cross-appeals, alleging that (1) the court erred by not staying the proceedings because she had filed for bankruptcy; (2) that the court, in granting Appellants' partial summary judgment, improperly found the existence of two appurtenant easements; and (3) that the court erred in ruling against her, following a bench trial, on each of her counterclaims for common law trespass, abuse of process, and private nuisance.

         We reverse the trial court's entry of partial summary judgment to the extent it found that the Taylors did not have notice of the easements and as a result Appellants were not entitled to obtain damages due to the Taylors' alleged obstruction of and interference with the easements. We affirm the remainder of the trial court's judgment.

         2. Background regarding the property and easements in question.

         The two parcels involved here were created in 1982 by Paul Ellis when he subdivided his larger plot into the two parcels before us, retained one of the parcels, and sold the other. In connection with that subdivision and sale, Ellis created two roadway easements over the parcel he sold to allow passage from his property, over the adjoining parcel, to two public roadways on the other side. These easements were described in the general warranty deed employed in connection with the sale of the second parcel and they were properly recorded.

         The parcel Ellis retained was transferred various times within the Ellis family with Mary Clark, Paul Ellis' daughter, being the last Ellis family member to own it. None of those transfers specifically mentions the easements. While she owned the property, Mary Clark and her husband used and maintained the two easements and at some time before she sold the property to Appellant Suedkamp, Mary Clark built and operated the Vineyards winery on the property. In September 2010, Appellant Suedkamp acquired the property from Clark "together with all rights and appurtenances."

         The second parcel was also transferred several times by general warranty deed including the transfer to Lisa Taylor, but the easements were not identified or described on any of those deeds either. The last two transfers involve parties before us as Lisa Taylor obtained title on March 25, 2016, from Mint Property, LLC, [1] which had just acquired the property on September 30, 2015.

         3. The dispute.

         When Appellant Suedkamp acquired the property, he also acquired the Vineyards winery. The Vineyards included a tasting room open to the public, which occasionally presented live music for up to 80 customers at a time. ...


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