Brown v. Virginia Advent Christian Conference

Citation76 S.E.2d 240, 194 Va. 909
Case DateJune 08, 1953
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

Page 240

76 S.E.2d 240
194 Va. 909
LUCY BROWN AND OTHERS

v.
VIRGINIA ADVENT CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE, ET AL.
Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia
June 8, 1953.

E. A. Gentry, D. M. Byrd, for plaintiffs in error.

R. B. Stephenson, J. W. C. Johnson, for defendants in error.

JUDGE: WHITTLE

WHITTLE, J., delivered the opinion of the court.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for judgment seeking to recover compensatory and punitive damages for the razing and destruction of a church building. The defendants were the Virginia [194 Va. 910] Advent Christian Conference, an unincorporated association, and its duly elected officers; the three trustees of Griffith Advent Church, John L. Morgan, Harvey W. Reynolds and Bernard W. Nicely, who, together with Tom Wood, deceased,

Page 241

had been duly appointed trustees for the church by the Circuit Court of Alleghany Country.

A plea in abatement was filed challenging the right of the plaintiffs to maintain the action. A demurrer, a plea of the general issue, and grounds of defense were also filed. The demurrer was overruled and the case proceeded to trial.

At the conclusion of the plaintiffs' evidence the court sustained defendants' motion to strike, and a verdict for defendants was returned by the jury. Judgment was entered on the verdict over plaintiffs' objection and we granted a writ of error.

Plaintiffs list six assignments of error which present three questions:

(1) Did the plaintiffs have the right to maintain this action at law?

(2) Did the trial court err in striking the evidence?

(3) Should the trial court have transferred the action to the equity side of the court?

The first two questions can be treated together and in their determination it will be necessary to relate the facts surrounding the controversy.

In 1895 Andrew J. Turner conveyed a lot containing three-fourths of an acre to church trustees for a building site. The lot was in the village of Griffith, which is located in a rural mountainous section of Alleghany county. The deed to the trustees contained the following pertinent provisions:

'For the purpose of building a Church to be dedicated to the Lord in the name of the Second Adventists to whom it shall belong. But free to all Christian sects for religious worship, when not occupied by the rightful owners. Said Church shall not be sold or transferred to any other denomination. * * *'

The evidence disclosed that soon after the conveyance a modest wooden church building was erected on the site. From the date of its erection until 1942 the church was used by the Second Adventists as a place of worship, and at intervals during this period other denominations were permitted to hold religious services therein.

Prior to 1942 many citizens of the village of Griffith had [194 Va. 911] moved away, leaving only two members of the Second Adventist faith in or near the village. These were Roy Brown and Lucy Brown, his wife.

Griffith Church was inaccessible, being located across Cow Pasture river and away from improved roads, with no vehicular bridges available. In the early life of the church the river could be forded by horse-drawn vehicles but was generally too deep for motor traffic. There were two footbridges across the stream, some distance from the church.

Two other Adventist churches had been erected in the vicinity of Griffith Church, at locations easily accessible. Many members of Griffith Church became affiliated with these new churches. It was admitted that the Second Adventists had not held services in the church for nine years prior to this litigation, the last service being held in 1942.

From 1942 until September, 1948, other...

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4 practice notes
  • Fitzgerald v. Alcorn, Case No. 5:17–cv–16
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 19 Enero 2018
    ...of the association or order who have been legally authorized to proceed with the litigation." Brown v. Va. Advent Christian Conference, 194 Va. 909, 912–13, 76 S.E.2d 240, 242 (1953) ; see also Int'l Fed'n of Prof'l & Tech. Eng'rs v. United States, 111 Fed.Cl. 175, 181 (2013) (examining Bro......
  • Int'l Fed'n of Prof'l & Technical Eng'rs v. United States, No. 12-157C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • 28 Mayo 2013
    ...of the association or order who have been legally authorized to proceed with the litigation." Brown v. Va. Advent Christian Conference, 76 S.E.2d 240, 242 (1953); see Jeffress v. Titius, 756 F. Supp. 255, 257 (W.D. Va. 1990) (citing Brown, 76 S.E.2d at 242), aff'd, 925 F.2d 1456 (4th Cir. 1......
  • Norfolk Presbytery v. Bollinger
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 14 Enero 1974
    ...interest in the property, it will have no standing to object to the property transfer. See Brown v. Virginia Advent Christian Conference, 194 Va. 909, 76 S.E.2d 240 Each party contends, however, that regardless of statutory provisions, it must prevail under the constitutional principle of s......
  • Jeffress v. Titius, Civ.A. No. 90-0256(R).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 26 Junio 1990
    ...members of the association who have been legally authorized to proceed with the litigation. Brown v. Virginia Advent Christian Conference, 194 Va. 909, 76 S.E.2d 240 (1953). Plaintiff has stated to the Court that he is not an officer of either of the two associations, and the record does no......
4 cases
  • Fitzgerald v. Alcorn, Case No. 5:17–cv–16
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 19 Enero 2018
    ...of the association or order who have been legally authorized to proceed with the litigation." Brown v. Va. Advent Christian Conference, 194 Va. 909, 912–13, 76 S.E.2d 240, 242 (1953) ; see also Int'l Fed'n of Prof'l & Tech. Eng'rs v. United States, 111 Fed.Cl. 175, 181 (2013) (examining Bro......
  • Int'l Fed'n of Prof'l & Technical Eng'rs v. United States, No. 12-157C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • 28 Mayo 2013
    ...of the association or order who have been legally authorized to proceed with the litigation." Brown v. Va. Advent Christian Conference, 76 S.E.2d 240, 242 (1953); see Jeffress v. Titius, 756 F. Supp. 255, 257 (W.D. Va. 1990) (citing Brown, 76 S.E.2d at 242), aff'd, 925 F.2d 1456 (4th Cir. 1......
  • Norfolk Presbytery v. Bollinger
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 14 Enero 1974
    ...interest in the property, it will have no standing to object to the property transfer. See Brown v. Virginia Advent Christian Conference, 194 Va. 909, 76 S.E.2d 240 Each party contends, however, that regardless of statutory provisions, it must prevail under the constitutional principle of s......
  • Jeffress v. Titius, Civ.A. No. 90-0256(R).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 26 Junio 1990
    ...members of the association who have been legally authorized to proceed with the litigation. Brown v. Virginia Advent Christian Conference, 194 Va. 909, 76 S.E.2d 240 (1953). Plaintiff has stated to the Court that he is not an officer of either of the two associations, and the record does no......

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