Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., No. 77-453

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtSWEENEY; O'NEILL; CELEBREZZE
Citation53 Ohio St.2d 241,7 O.O.3d 403,374 N.E.2d 146
Docket NumberNo. 77-453
Decision Date29 March 1978
Parties, 7 O.O.3d 403 ALEXANDER et al., Appellants, v. BUCKEYE PIPE LINE COMPANY, Appellee.

Page 241

53 Ohio St.2d 241
374 N.E.2d 146, 7 O.O.3d 403
ALEXANDER et al., Appellants,
v.
BUCKEYE PIPE LINE COMPANY, Appellee.
No. 77-453.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
March 29, 1978.
[374 N.E.2d 148]
Syllabus by the Court

1. The construction of written contracts and instruments of conveyance is a matter of law.

2. Common words appearing in a written instrument will be given their ordinary meaning unless manifest absurdity results, or unless some other meaning is clearly evidenced from the face or overall contents of the instrument.

3. Although extrinsic evidence of a general custom or trade usage cannot vary the terms of an express contract, such evidence is permissible to show that the parties to a written agreement employed terms having a special meaning within a certain geographic location or a

Page 242

particular trade or industry not reflected on the face of the agreement.

Donald G. and Helen B. Alexander (appellants herein) are owners of land subject to three right-of-way agreements granted by their predecessors in title to The Buckeye Pipe Line Company (appellee herein) and its successors or assigns.

The first of the three right-of-way agreements, executed on January 15, 1907, provides, in pertinent part, that The Buckeye Pipe Line Company, its successors or assigns, is granted " * * * the right of way to lay, maintain, operate and remove a pipe line for the transportation of oil * * * " and " * * * at any time lay an additional line of pipe * * * upon the payment of a like consideration, and subject to the same conditions * * *." The second right-of-way agreement, executed on May 15, 1911, grants The Buckeye Pipe Line Company, its successors or assigns " * * * the right of way to lay, maintain, operate and remove a pipe line for the transportation of oil or gas * * * " and " * * * the right from time to time to lay additional lines of pipe alongside of the first line * * *." The third right-of-way agreement, executed on November 24, 1947, grants the Sohio Pipe Line Company, its successors and assigns, " * * * the right to lay, maintain, operate, repair and remove a pipe line and all necessary fixtures, equipment and appurtenances thereto," and " * * * the right, at any time or times, * * * to lay, maintain, operate, repair, replace and remove additional pipe lines over and through said premises, provided that each additional pipe line is laid substantially parallel to and not more than one rod distance from the first pipe line installed hereunder."

Page 243

The 1947 right-of-way agreement, originally granted to the Sohio Pipe Line Company, was later transferred to appellee.

On July 11, 1972, appellants filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Hancock County alleging in substance the following:

(1) That appellee is wrongfully transporting dangerous, volatile and explosive products in its pipe line laid under the appellants'[374 N.E.2d 149] property, infringing on appellants' property rights and causing irreparable damage, constituting wrongful taking of property without due process of law for which appellants asked for an injunction:

(2) that such acts lessened the value of appellants' land in the amount of $9,000.

(3) that such acts amount to a wrongful condemnation of appellants' property for appellee's private use for which appellants are entitled to an accounting of revenues for such wrongful use:

(4) that appellee is actually using the pipe lines, in part, for reservoir and storage purposes, which additional purposes unjustly enriched appellee in the amount that it would cost appellee to construct, maintain and lease comparable storage facilities;

(5) that appellee threatens to lay additional pipe lines on appellants' property in violation of the easement terms;

(6) that appellee has laid pipe lines on appellants' property outside the rights of way granted by the agreements;

(7) that on November 24, 1970, one of the pipe lines exploded, damaging appellants' land; and

(8) that appellee's use of pipe lines is an ultrahazardous activity for which appellee should be held strictly liable for damages in the sum of $12,039.

In support of their contention that the terms "oil" and "gas" as employed in the right-of-way agreement had limited meanings, appellants provided the Court of Common Pleas with an affidavit, dated June 19, 1973, of John A. Stitt, who was then 78 years of age, who had

Page 244

owned and operated oil wells in both Hancock and Wood counties for 40 years. Mr. Stitt stated his understanding of the words "petroleum," "oil" and "gas" as such terms were generally used between 1910 through 1962. He stated that "petroleum" and "oil" meant crude oil and that gas meant natural gas. There was no indication that Mr. Stitt had any knowledge of the parties involved in this cause or the circumstances surrounding execution of the right-of-way agreements involved herein.

Appellee filed no answer, but on December 11, 1972, filed a motion for partial summary judgment directed to all but the seventh cause of action. In support of its motion, appellee submitted affidavits revealing that two eight-inch lines were installed in 1907, one in 1911, one in 1937, one ten-inch line in 1939-1940, another ten-inch line in 1940, one twenty-two inch line in 1949, and one twelve-inch line in 1963, totalling eight pipe lines. The two lines installed in 1907 have transported only crude oil. The other lines are used to transport crude oil, gasoline, two grades of fuel oil, gas oil, propane and butane. Two lines were installed under the 1907 easement, five under the 1911 easement and one under the 1947 easement. None of the lines was shown to be used for storage or reservoir purposes. No objection to number, location or uses of the lines by any owner of the land subject to the right-of-way...

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  • Valente v. UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON, Case No. 3:08-cv-225.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • January 4, 2010
    ...doctrine of substantial compliance, but Plaintiff asserts it should not apply. Plaintiff relies on Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 374 N.E.2d 146 (1978), but that case has nothing to do with the doctrine of substantial compliance, but rather with the parol evidence ru......
  • Schuetz v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 05 CVH-08-9371.
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    ...{¶ 34} The interpretation of an insurance contract is a matter of law. Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co. (1978), 890 N.E.2d 384 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 7 O.O.3d 403, 374 N.E.2d 146, paragraph one of the syllabus. Courts interpreting insurance contracts are to give common words appearing in the ......
  • Nilavar v. Mercy Health System Western Ohio, No. C-3-99-612.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • December 19, 2000
    ...or professional conduct. The interpretation of a clear and unambiguous contract is a matter of law. Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 374 N.E.2d 146 (1978), paragraph one of the syllabus. "Only when the language of a contract is unclear or ambiguous, or when the Page 89......
  • Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp., Nos. 12 MO 6
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 26, 2014
    ...“[t]he construction of written contracts and instruments of conveyance is a matter of law.” Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 374 N.E.2d 146 (1978), paragraph one of the syllabus, quoting Graham v. Drydock Coal Co., 76 Ohio St.3d 311, 313, 667 N.E.2d 949 (1996). Thus, a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1613 cases
  • Valente v. UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON, Case No. 3:08-cv-225.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • January 4, 2010
    ...doctrine of substantial compliance, but Plaintiff asserts it should not apply. Plaintiff relies on Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 374 N.E.2d 146 (1978), but that case has nothing to do with the doctrine of substantial compliance, but rather with the parol evidence ru......
  • Schuetz v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 05 CVH-08-9371.
    • United States
    • Court of Common Pleas of Ohio
    • March 29, 2007
    ...{¶ 34} The interpretation of an insurance contract is a matter of law. Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co. (1978), 890 N.E.2d 384 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 7 O.O.3d 403, 374 N.E.2d 146, paragraph one of the syllabus. Courts interpreting insurance contracts are to give common words appearing in the ......
  • Nilavar v. Mercy Health System Western Ohio, No. C-3-99-612.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • December 19, 2000
    ...or professional conduct. The interpretation of a clear and unambiguous contract is a matter of law. Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 374 N.E.2d 146 (1978), paragraph one of the syllabus. "Only when the language of a contract is unclear or ambiguous, or when the Page 89......
  • Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp., Nos. 12 MO 6
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 26, 2014
    ...“[t]he construction of written contracts and instruments of conveyance is a matter of law.” Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co., 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 374 N.E.2d 146 (1978), paragraph one of the syllabus, quoting Graham v. Drydock Coal Co., 76 Ohio St.3d 311, 313, 667 N.E.2d 949 (1996). Thus, a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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