Frazier v. Smallseed

Citation384 S.C. 56,682 S.E.2d 8
Decision Date04 June 2009
Docket NumberNo. 4558.,4558.
CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
PartiesEliza FRAZIER and Dorothy Anderson Brailford, Respondents, v. Simon SMALLSEED; George Holmes; Eve Green; Louisa Brown; Earnestine Smalls; Virginia Anderson; Frank Green and Luther A. Green, if living, and if deceased, their heirs at law, next of kin, distributees, devisees and any persons claiming under, by or through them, also, Jane A. Hannah and Donald Hannah; Colden R. Battey, and all other persons unknown claiming by, under or through them as heirs, distributees, devisees, and any and all persons unknown having, or claiming to have, any right, title, estate, interest in or lien upon the real property described in the Amended Complaint, being designated collectively as John Doe, including all persons unknown, all minors, persons in the Armed Forces, persons non compos mentis, and any and all other persons under any disability who might have a claim to have any right, title, interest in or lien upon the real property described in the Amended Complaint, designated as Mary Roe, Defendants, Of Whom Colden R. Battey is Respondent, Jane A. Hannah and Donald G. Hannah are Appellants, and Matthew McAlheany, Intervenor, is Respondent.
682 S.E.2d 8
384 S.C. 56
Eliza FRAZIER and Dorothy Anderson Brailford, Respondents,
v.
Simon SMALLSEED; George Holmes; Eve Green; Louisa Brown; Earnestine Smalls; Virginia Anderson; Frank Green and Luther A. Green, if living, and if deceased, their heirs at law, next of kin, distributees, devisees and any persons claiming under, by or through them, also, Jane A. Hannah and Donald Hannah; Colden R. Battey, and all other persons unknown claiming by, under or through them as heirs, distributees, devisees, and any and all persons unknown having, or claiming to have, any right, title, estate, interest in or lien upon the real property described in the Amended Complaint, being designated

[682 S.E.2d 9]

collectively as John Doe, including all persons unknown, all minors, persons in the Armed Forces, persons non compos mentis, and any and all other persons under any disability who might have a claim to have any right, title, interest in or lien upon the real property described in the Amended Complaint, designated as Mary Roe, Defendants,
Of Whom Colden R. Battey is Respondent,
Jane A. Hannah and Donald G. Hannah are Appellants, and
Matthew McAlheany, Intervenor, is Respondent.
No. 4558.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard March 17, 2009.
Decided June 4, 2009.

[682 S.E.2d 10]

Alysoun M. Eversole, of Beaufort and Stephen L. Brown, William L. Howard, and Russell G. Hines, all of Charleston, for Appellants.

Colden Battey and Louis O. Dore, both of Beaufort and Robert V. Mathison, of Hilton Head Island, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM.


In this civil case, we must determine whether the trial court erred in concluding Donald and Jane Hanna (collectively the Hannas) did not own certain property located in Beaufort County by adverse possession and whether Eliza Frazier and Dorothy Anderson Brailford have a right to an easement in certain property located in the same county. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS

The case involves around a parcel of land located in Beaufort County on Corn Island.1 Specifically, the property at issue lies within Section 29, Township One, Range One East. The individual lots within Section 29 are numbered sequentially. The numbering begins in the upper right corner as Lot 1 and continues, reading right to left until Lot 8 is reached in the upper left corner of the grid. The next row of lots is to the south starting with Lot 9 immediately below Lot 8 on the left side of the grid and continuing left to right until Lot 16 is reached on the right side of the grid immediately below Lot 1. The particular parcel of land in question in this case is Lot 9.

Eve Green, whose descendants are Frazier and Brailford, purchased eight acres of land on Corn Island from George Holmes in 1881. By 1889, Green had increased her holdings on Corn Island from eight acres to twenty-two

682 S.E.2d 11

acres. In 1954, Beaufort County began to keep tax records by district, map, and parcel numbers. In this same year, the property record card for Green's twenty-two acre parcel was designated as Parcel 1 on Map 12 in the name of "Heirs of Eve Green" (the Heirs). Parcel 1 on Map 12 included Lots 9, 23, 24, and 26 in Section 29. Lot 24 is directly below Lot 9, while Lot 23 abuts Lot 24 on the east, and Lot 26 is immediately to the south of Lot 23. Green or her heirs paid taxes on the twenty-two-acres until 1997. In June 1997, the Heirs sold Lot 26 and a small portion of Lot 23 to Broadus Thompson and his wife, Patricia Thompson (collectively the Thompsons).

At trial, the Hannas argued they had been in open, notorious, hostile, continuous, and exclusive possession of Lot 9 for a period in excess of ten years and asked the trial court to award title to the property by reason of adverse possession under color of title. Frazier and Brailford argued they were entitled to an easement over Cassena Road and Cassena Island Drive, which had been constructed by the Hannas and crossed the Hannas' property. Matthew McAlhaney sought to intervene because he had a contract to purchase Lot 9, among other property, from Frazier and Brailford.

The trial court allowed McAlhaney to intervene. The trial court concluded the Hannas did not own Lot 9 by adverse possession. The trial court also found Frazier and Brailford were entitled to an easement by prescription over Cassena Road and Cassena Island Drive. The trial court also denied the Hannas' post-trial motions. This appeal followed.

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Adverse Possession

Initially, the Hannas argue the trial court erred in holding they did not own Lot 9 by virtue of adverse possession under color of title. We disagree.

While an action to quiet title usually rests in equity, an action to determine title to real property is an action at law. Eldridge v. City of Greenwood, 331 S.C. 398, 416, 503 S.E.2d 191, 200 (Ct.App.1998). Likewise, an adverse possession claim is an action at law. Miller v. Leaird, 307 S.C. 56, 61, 413 S.E.2d 841, 843 (1992). In an action at law tried by a judge without a jury, the appellate court will correct any error of law, but it must affirm the trial court's factual findings unless no evidence reasonably supports those findings. Eldridge, 331 S.C. at 416, 503 S.E.2d at 200; see Knight v. Hilton, 224 S.C. 452, 456, 79 S.E.2d 871, 873 (1954) (holding whether deceased spouse of claimant had held title to land involved by adverse possession was a legal issue and conclusion of the trial court was binding upon an appellate court if any evidence reasonably tended to sustain it).

In order to acquire title by adverse possession, the claimant must show the possession to "be actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous and exclusive for the whole statutory period. It may be stated as a general rule that claimant's possession must be such as to indicate his exclusive ownership of the property." Gregg v. Moore, 226 S.C. 366, 370, 85 S.E.2d 279, 281 (1954). Color of title, as employed in this case, is relevant to adverse possession in that color of title may be used to show possession of an entire tract of property even though the claimant adversely possesses only a small portion of the entire tract. Johnson v. Pritchard, 302 S.C. 437, 446, 395 S.E.2d 191, 196 (Ct.App.1990). The South Carolina Supreme Court has described...

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7 cases
  • Millvale Plantation, LLC v. Carrison Family Ltd.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 31, 2012
    ......Adverse possession and trespass to try title claims are actions at law. See Frazier v. Smallseed, 384 S.C. 56, 61, 682 S.E.2d 8, 11 (Ct.App.2009) (holding an adverse possession claim is an action at law); Knox v. Bogan, 322 S.C. 64, ......
  • Miller v. Columbia Forest, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 22, 2014
    ...... improvements covering most of the subject land or some other. continuous use and exercise of dominion.'" (quoting. Frazier v. Smallseed, 384 S.C. 56, 63, 682 S.E.2d 8,. 12 (Ct. App. 2009))); McDaniel v. Kendrick, 386 S.C. 437, 444, 688 S.E.2d 852, 856 (Ct. ......
  • Miller v. Columbia Forest, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 22, 2014
    ...... show either fencing or other improvements covering most of the subject land or some other continuous use and exercise of dominion.'" (quoting Frazier v. Smallseed, 384 S.C. 56, 63, 682 S.E.2d 8, 12 (Ct. App. 2009))); McDaniel v. Kendrick, 386 S.C. 437, 444, 688 S.E.2d 852, 856 (Ct. App. 2009) ......
  • McKnight v. Lowder, 2010-UP-416
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 20, 2010
    ...... . . "The. determination of the existence of an easement is a question. of fact in a law action.." Frazier v. Smallseed, 384 S.C. 56, 64, 682 S.E.2d 8, 12 (Ct. App. 2009) (citation omitted). "However, the determination of. the extent of a ......
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