Huckaby v. Cheatham, A04A1886.

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Citation612 S.E.2d 810,272 Ga. App. 746
Docket NumberNo. A04A1886.,A04A1886.
Decision Date13 April 2005
612 S.E.2d 810
272 Ga. App. 746
No. A04A1886.
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
March 15, 2005.
Reconsideration Denied April 13, 2005.

Page 811

Penelope Rumsey, Rumsey & Ramsey, Atlanta, for Appellant.

Robert Darroch, Samantha Johnson, Mabry & McClelland, LLP, Atlanta, for Appellee.

ADAMS, Judge.

Two property owners who share a driveway easement ended up in court regarding whether one of them could park on the common driveway. The primary issue on appeal is whether the trial court should have granted a directed verdict by ruling as a matter of law that parking on the easement was not allowed.

The evidence presented at trial shows that Angela Huckaby and Vance Cheatham live on adjoining properties in single-family homes that they own. Huckaby co-owns her house with Claire Moynihan; Cheatham co-owns his house with his wife. The parties share a common driveway, and, on August 27 and 28, 1991, the prior owners entered into and recorded a document entitled "Reciprocal Driveway Easement Agreement" (the "Easement"), which expressly provides that it shall constitute a covenant running with the title to both properties.

A recital in the Easement describes the driveway:

There currently exists an unpaved gravel driveway approximately 8 feet in width which is located partially upon the [Huckaby] Property, and partially upon the [Cheatham] [272 Ga. App. 747] property (the "Driveway"), which is shown on the survey for Vance Cheatham ... dated July 22, 1991, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit A.

In separate provisions for each party, the Easement provides that each party shall have an easement for the portion of the driveway on the other person's property:

[Each party hereby grants to the other party] a perpetual, nonexclusive easement over that portion of the Driveway located upon [his or her] Property, for pedestrian and vehicular access between North Candler Street and the residence located upon the [other] Property.

Page 812

But each party was allowed to use the portion of the easement on his own property "for any purposes which do not unreasonably interfere with the use and enjoyment of this easement by [the other party]."

After the parties had been neighbors for several years, a dispute developed arising out of complaints about barking dogs and assertions of trespass. Consequently, on January 18, 2000, Huckaby and Cheatham (and their co-owners) entered into a personal agreement (the "2000 Agreement"). As stated in the recitals:

Whereas, claims have been asserted by the Cheathams as to the purported trespass and throwing of projectiles in the vicinity of the dogs by Huckaby and Moynihan; and

Whereas, claims have been asserted by Moynihan and Huckaby against the Cheathams relating to purported violations of the City of Decatur Code as it relates to dogs barking, failure to restrain dogs, and a purported incident of attack of a dog owned by the Cheathams upon Angela Huckaby....

The 2000 Agreement was intended "to resolve such disputes ... and to provide methods of addressing ongoing concerns held by all Parties," and the parties expressly agree that it is a personal agreement that does not run with the land. In the document, the parties first acknowledge that the Cheathams intend to build a privacy fence along the property line (not in the easement area), and Moynihan agreed to pay a portion of the construction cost. There are also several provisions regarding the Cheathams' dogs and several other provisions irrelevant to this case.

Finally, in paragraph 9, the parties agree to additional provisions regarding the driveway:

[272 Ga. App. 748] The Parties further acknowledge that there is, as a matter of record, an easement over the portion of the driveway that runs parallel to the shared boundary line. The Parties do hereby further consent to refrain from interfering with each party's use of the driveway area for ingress and egress, and that each shall not block the driveway, or exercise exclusive dominion over any portion of the easement area.

But they also make clear that they did not intend to modify the existing Easement: "Nothing contained herein is intended to modify the rights and or privileges created by the express terms of said easement."

Only three weeks later, when Cheatham began to build the privacy fence, he cut down or trimmed several cherry laurel trees, despite being informed by Moynihan that the trees were not on his property. Huckaby filed suit alleging conversion and trespass regarding the laurel trees, and, eight months later, she amended her complaint to allege that Cheatham had willfuly violated the Easement and to request injunctive relief. She requested that the court "enjoin the Defendant from violating the express terms of the Easement by such conduct, including the parking of vehicles on the easement area."

Five months later, Cheatham filed, in the same civil action, a request for a temporary restraining order. He alleged that Huckaby had placed a two-inch steel pipe down the center of the drive, running the length of the drive, secured by two-foot rebar stakes that were driven into the ground every four feet or so. The pipe was then covered with gravel, which created a mound between three and eight inches high. Cheatham alleged that the pipe violated paragraph 9 of the 2000 Agreement. The court granted a temporary restraining order and ordered the removal of the pipe but also temporarily enjoined Cheatham "from parking and/or permitting others to park in the driveway area unless such vehicle is left running and attended."

The case went to trial, and at the close of the evidence, Huckaby moved for a directed verdict, requesting that the court hold that the Cheathams may not park in the area that is depicted as the driveway in the survey attached to the Easement. The judge asked Cheatham's attorney if Cheatham was "asking to be able to park in the driveway." Cheatham's attorney replied, "yes." Cheatham argued that the documents did not forbid parking, rather they only forbid "blocking" or "unreasonably interfering" with the use of the driveway, and a car could get

Page 813

around another car parked partially in the easement area as illustrated by six photographs that had been introduced by the parties into evidence. He later suggested that there would be no [272 Ga. App. 749] blocking or interference if Huckaby could get by Cheatham's car by driving slightly off the easement area and into her own yard.

Huckaby asserted that she was not limited to complaining about the cars as shown in the photographs because there was testimony that the Cheathams parked "in and about that driveway area." And Huckaby stressed that the Easement does not contemplate any parking on the common driveway, and she again requested that the court determine the issue as a matter of law. The judge explained that she was going to ask the jury if the Cheathams could park on their own property, but partially in the easement, without "blocking" the easement as prohibited by the 2000 Agreement, or whether the Cheathams would have to go past where the driveway forks into each party's yard.

The judge ultimately decided to give the jury only one special interrogatory on the issues regarding the driveway: whether Cheatham's parking as shown in the six photographs constituted a violation of paragraph 9 of the 2000 Agreement; the Easement was not mentioned. The judge apparently based her ruling on a conclusion that the word "block" as used in the 2000 Agreement was ambiguous and needed to be construed by the jury. Huckaby objected to the interrogatory on the grounds that "the construction of the easement agreement and subsequent agreement is a matter for the Court and not the jury."

The jury found in favor of defendant Cheatham on all issues, including the easement interrogatory. The judge entered a judgment on the verdict that provides, among other things, that parking vehicles as shown in the six photographs does not constitute a violation of the Easement or the 2000 Agreement. Huckaby filed motions for...

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12 cases
  • Kinslow v. State, S20G1001
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • June 21, 2021
    ...734 (2d College ed. 1980). And Georgia case law reflects this narrower sort of definition of "interfere." See Huckaby v. Cheatham , 272 Ga. App. 746, 751 (1), 612 S.E.2d 810 (2005) (parking on easement for shared driveway would "interfere" with neighbor's ingress and egress over the easemen......
  • Pribeagu v. Gwinnett Cnty., A15A2026.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • April 13, 2016
    ...and we will not reverse in the absence of a showing of abuse of discretion.” (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Huckaby v. Cheatham, 272 Ga.App. 746, 752(2), 612 S.E.2d 810 (2005). See also Blackwell v. Potts, 266 Ga.App. 702, 705(1), 598 S.E.2d 1 (2004) (appellate courts review a ruling o......
  • City of Atlanta v. Lei, No. A04A1836.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • April 13, 2005
    ...conflicts or uncertainties.46 We conclude that because there was at least some evidence to support the jury's finding that the [272 Ga. App. 746] City acted in bad faith, the award of attorney fees should have been upheld.1. Sims v. Sims, 265 Ga. 55, 56, 452 S.E.2d 761 (1995). 2. City of Bo......
  • Infinity Gen. Ins. Co. v. Litton., A10A1784.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • July 11, 2011
    ...on construction of contract, which involved a question of law for the court, we review the court's ruling de novo); Huckaby v. Cheatham, 272 Ga.App. 746, 749(1), 612 S.E.2d 810 (2005) (to the extent that the construction of a contract presented a question of law, appellate court owed no def......
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