Meadows v. Belknap, 23534

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Citation483 S.E.2d 826,199 W.Va. 243
Decision Date21 February 1997
Docket NumberNo. 23534,23534
PartiesRoberta MEADOWS and Tara Sue Morgan, Plaintiffs Below, Appellees, v. Wade BELKNAP and Gary Cogar, Defendants Below, Appellees, and Carma PERRINE, Plaintiff Below, Appellant, v. Roberta L. MEADOWS and Tara Sue Morgan, Defendants Below, Appellees.

Richard A. Facemire, Sutton, for Appellant.

George M. Cooper, Sutton, for Appellees Roberta Meadows and Tara Sue Morgan.

Bernard R. Mauser, Sutton, for Appellees Wade Belknap and Gary Cogar.

DAVIS, Justice:

This appeal was prosecuted by Carma Perrine, appellant/plaintiff below, (hereinafter referred to as "Mrs. Perrine"), from an order of the Circuit Court of Braxton County denying her request to permanently enjoin her daughters Roberta L. Meadows and Tara

                [199 W.Va. 245] Sue Morgan, appellees/defendants below, (hereinafter referred to as "the daughters"), from interfering with her use of certain real property. 1  The circuit court's order found that Mrs. Perrine's interest in the property was limited to dower and that she could not invade the corpus of the property.  The circuit court ruled that Mrs. Perrine could not create waste or remove timber therefrom without the consent of the daughters.  Mrs. Perrine alleges that it was error for the circuit court to deny her injunctive relief, limit her interest in the property to dower and find that she could not unilaterally dispose of timber on the property.  We agree and reverse


The facts of this case are traced to Mrs. Perrine's marriage to Derstine Perrine. Mrs. Perrine and Mr. Perrine were wed on August 3, 1942. During their marriage Mr. Perrine purchased, by deed in his name alone, five tracts of land situate in Otter District, Braxton County. 2 On October 12, 1989, Mr. Perrine and Mrs. Perrine signed a deed conveying the five tracts of land to the daughters. The deed conveying the property to the daughters specifically reserved a life estate in the property to Mr. Perrine and Mrs. Perrine. Additionally, the deed reserved the right of Mr. Perrine and Mrs. Perrine to dispose of any timber on the property and to retain proceeds therefrom. On November 22, 1991, Mr. Perrine died testate. Several years after Mr. Perrine's death Mrs. Perrine, on November 8, 1994, executed a contract with Wade Belknap, wherein she sold to Mr. Belknap certain timber on the five tracts of land. Thereafter, on November 22, 1994, the daughters filed a petition for preliminary injunction with the circuit court seeking to enjoin Belknap and Gary Cogar from removing timber from the land. 3 The circuit court issued a temporary injunction against Belknap and Cogar on November 22 and, after a hearing held on November 29, continued the preliminary injunction pending further deliberation by the court.

On December 9, 1994, Mrs. Perrine filed a complaint, sounding in equity and law, against the daughters. 4 In her complaint Mrs. Perrine asked that the court enjoin the daughters from interfering with her right to dispose of timber on the five tracts of land. The complaint also requested damages for economic losses sustained by Mrs. Perrine as a result of the daughters' interference with her timber rights. On January 4, 1995, the circuit court entered an agreed order consolidating Mrs. Perrine's action against the daughters and the daughters' action against Belknap and Cogar. Thereafter on April 19, 1995, the circuit court, without holding a hearing, entered an order in the consolidated cases. The court ruled that (1) Mrs. Perrine had only a dower interest in the five tracts of land, (2) Mrs. Perrine could not invade the corpus of the property, create waste or remove timber therefrom without consent of the daughters, (3) Mrs. Perrine was not entitled to an injunction against the daughters, and (4) that Belknap and Cogar were permanently enjoined from removing timber from the land. 5 Mrs. Perrine filed a motion for reconsideration and a hearing was held on May 26, 1995. On June 19, 1995, the circuit

                [199 W.Va. 246] court entered an order denying the motion for reconsideration and reaffirmed its previous order.  Mrs. Perrine filed this appeal.  While there are numerous issues in this appeal, the central question for this Court is whether Mrs. Perrine has only a dower interest in the five tracts of land. 6  As we fully set out below, Mrs. Perrine's interest in the property is greater than that of a dower


We begin our analysis by first establishing the appropriate standard of review. The core of this appeal is Mrs. Perrine's challenge to the circuit court's findings of fact and conclusions of law which served as predicates for the denial of her request for injunctive relief. In reviewing the exceptions to the findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the denial of a preliminary injunction, we apply a three-pronged deferential standard of review. Syllabus point 1, McGraw v. Imperial Marketing, 196 W.Va. 346, 472 S.E.2d 792 (1996). First, we review the final order denying the temporary injunction and the ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard. West v. National Mines Corp., 168 W.Va. 578, 590, 285 S.E.2d 670, 678 (1981). Second, we review the circuit court's underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard. Syllabus point 1, G Corp. v. MackJo, Inc., 195 W.Va. 752, 466 S.E.2d 820 (1995). Third, we review questions of law de novo. Syllabus point 4, Burgess v. Porterfield, 196 W.Va. 178, 469 S.E.2d 114 (1996).

The task we embark upon requires this Court to examine pertinent language in a deed to ascertain the intent of its parties. This Court has developed some basic principles for analyzing instruments of conveyance. As we pointed out in Orlandi v. Miller, 192 W.Va. 144, 148, 451 S.E.2d 445, 449 (1994), "[t]he law is rather clear in this State that where there is ambiguity in a deed, it is appropriate that it be construed." Citing, Hall v. Hartley, 146 W.Va. 328, 119 S.E.2d 759 (1961); Bennett v. Smith, 136 W.Va. 903, 69 S.E.2d 42 (1952); Meadow River Lumber Company v. Smith, 126 W.Va. 847, 30 S.E.2d 392 (1944); Paxton v. Benedum-Trees Oil Co., 80 W.Va. 187, 94 S.E. 472 (1917). As a general rule, ambiguities in a deed are to be clarified by resort to the intention of the parties ascertained from the deed itself, the circumstances surrounding its execution, as well as the subject matter and the parties' situation at that time. 23 Am.Jur.2d Deeds § 221 (1983). See Brown v. Crozer Coal & Land Co., 144 W.Va. 296, 107 S.E.2d 777 (1959); Oresta v. Romano Brothers, Inc., 137 W.Va. 633, 73 S.E.2d 622 (1952); Ramage v. South Penn Oil Co., 94 W.Va. 81, 118 S.E. 162 (1923). It becomes incumbent then for this Court to place itself in the situation of the parties, as near as may be, to determine the meaning and intent of the language employed in the deed. Phillips v. Fox, 193 W.Va. 657, 458 S.E.2d 327 (1995). See Grill v. West Virginia R.R. Maintenance Auth., 188 W.Va. 284, 423 S.E.2d 893 (1992). It was noted in syllabus point 2 of McDonough Co. v. E.I. DuPont DeNemours & Co., Inc., 167 W.Va. 611, 280 S.E.2d 246 (1981) that "[d]eed reservations are strictly construed against a grantor and in favor of a grantee." However, in Donahue v. Bills, 172 W.Va. 354, 355, 305 S.E.2d 311, 312 (1983) we cited our decision in West Virginia Department of Highways v. Farmer, 159 W.Va. 823, 226 S.E.2d 717, 719 (1976), wherein it was said that " '[i]t has long been held that where language in a deed is unambiguous there is no need for construction and it is the duty of the court to give to every word its usual meaning.' " Quoting, 5 M.J., Deeds, § 66 (citing, Burdette v. Bruen, 118 W.Va. 624, 191 S.E. 360 (1937)); Tate v. United Fuel Gas Co., 137 W.Va. 272, 71 S.E.2d 65 (1952). We said further in Fox Grocery Co. v. University Foods, Inc., 181 W.Va. 206, 208, 382 S.E.2d 43, 45 (1989) " '[a] fundamental rule of law is that a court, in deciding disputes about the meaning of a contract, deed, or will, will endeavor to carry into effect the intent of the parties to the agreement, seeking first to ascertain such intent from the instrument itself.' Bennett v. Dove, 166 W.Va. 772, 277 S.E.2d 617, 618-19 (1981). In ascertaining the intent from the instrument, the language of the agreement must be afforded its 'plain

                [199 W.Va. 247] and ordinary meaning' without resort to judicial construction."   Citing, Syl. pt. 4, Williams v. South Penn Oil Co., 52 W.Va. 181, 43 S.E. 214 (1903), overruled on another point,  Ramage v. South Penn Oil Co., supra;  Cotiga Development Co. v. United Fuel Gas Co., 147 W.Va. 484, 128 S.E.2d 626 (1962).  "Parties are bound by general and ordinary meanings of words used in

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 cases
  • Faith United Methodist Church v. Morgan
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 13, 2013
    ...different intention.”). 119. Syllabus Point 13, in part, State v. Harden, 62 W.Va. 313, 58 S.E. 715 (1907). See also, Meadows v. Belknap, 199 W.Va. 243, 250, 483 S.E.2d 826, 833 (1997) (“We are not disturbed by the informality of the deed's textual placement and creation of Mrs. Perrine's l......
  • Doering v. City of Ronceverte, 35553.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 20, 2011
    ...of fee simple ownership is well settled and was recognized by this Court as “the highest estate known to the law” in Meadows v. Belknap, 199 W.Va. 243, 247 n. 7, 483 S.E.2d 826, 830 n. 7 (1997), and in Yeager v. Town of Fairmont, 43 W.Va. 259, 261, 27 S.E. 234, 234 (1897). Consistent with t......
  • Doering v. City of Ronceverte, 35553
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 20, 2011
    ...of fee simple ownership is well settled and was recognized by this Court as "the highest estate known to the law" in Meadows v. Belknap, 199 W.Va. 243, 247 n. 7, 483 S.E.2d 826, 830 n. 7 (1997), and in Yeager v. Town of Fairmont, 43 W.Va. 259, 261, 27 S.E. 234, 234 (1897). Consistent with t......
  • Gastar Exploration, Inc. v. Contraguerro, 16-0429
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 31, 2017
    ...246 (1981) holds: "Parties are bound by general and ordinary meanings of words used in deeds." Accord syl. pt. 1, Meadows v. Belknap , 199 W.Va. 243, 483 S.E.2d 826 (1997). See W.Va. Dep't of Highways v. Farmer , 159 W.Va. 823, 825, 226 S.E.2d 717, 719 (1976) ("It has long been held that wh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT