Johnson v. Dickerson

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtSTEAGALL; TORBERT
Citation495 So.2d 1389
Decision Date03 October 1986
PartiesJames C. JOHNSON v. Marie Turner DICKERSON. 84-1124.

Page 1389

495 So.2d 1389
Marie Turner DICKERSON.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
Oct. 3, 1986.

Allen W. Howell, Montgomery, for appellant.

George W. Thomas, Montgomery, for appellee.

STEAGALL, Justice.

James C. Johnson brought suit in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, pursuant to Code 1975, §§ 35-3-1 through -3, seeking a determination of the location of the boundary line between his property and an adjoining parcel belonging to Marie Turner Dickerson. The court, after hearing ore tenus testimony, entered a judgment in favor of Dickerson, from which Johnson appeals. We affirm.

The trial court rendered the following judgment on June 17, 1985:


"This cause came on for trial on the Merits on May 7, 1985, with the Court sitting as trier of fact. Both sides were represented by counsel. After taking testimony presented by the parties, and hearing argument of counsel, the Court

Page 1390

continued the case pending the completion of a surveyor's report.

"The Court resumed trial on June 14, 1985. The surveyor's report, prepared by W.C. Sheffield, was submitted to the Court....

"It is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that judgment be entered in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff."

Johnson asserts that the trial court erred by failing to fix a boundary line as required by Code 1975, § 35-3-3, which provides in part that "[t]he judgment shall locate and define the boundary lines involved by reference to well-known permanent landmarks." Johnson cites a number of Alabama cases for the proposition that, in a statutory boundary line action, the trial court is under a duty to enter a decree describing and locating the boundary line with reasonable certainty. Ryan v. Fulford, 273 Ala. 600, 143 So.2d 452 (1962); Edwards v. Smith, 240 Ala. 397, 199 So. 811 (1941); Baldwin v. Harrelson, 225 Ala. 386, 143 So. 558 (1932).

The circuit court is authorized by Code 1975, § 12-11-31, to establish and define uncertain or disputed boundary lines. The purpose of this section and of §§ 35-3-1 through -3, Code 1975, "is to establish uncertain or disputed boundaries." Drewry v. Cowart, 250 Ala. 406, 407, 34 So.2d 687, 688 (1948). A complainant "ordinarily is entitled to a decree if the court finds a disputed boundary, rather than to have the court deny all relief." Id.

In the instant case, the trial court ruled in favor of Dickerson and against Johnson, thereby denying all relief which Johnson sought. We must determine whether this denial of relief by the trial court is appropriate under the facts of this case.

In Ratliff v. Giorlando, 343 So.2d 506 (Ala.1977), an issue raised on appeal was whether the trial court erred in not establishing a boundary line between the property of the defendants and that of the plaintiffs. The Ratliff Court said:

"This court has held that, in cases...

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