Pinson v. Veach

Citation388 So.2d 964
PartiesRobert B. PINSON, Jr. and wife Clarice Pinson v. Everett G. VEACH and wife Dorothy Veach. 78-755.
Decision Date03 October 1980
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

John S. Casey, Heflin, for appellants.

James Allen Main, Anniston, for appellees.

PER CURIAM.

This is an appeal from a judgment establishing a boundary line and refusing to reform certain deeds. We affirm.

The appellees, plaintiffs below, are Everett Veach and his wife Dorothy Veach; the appellants are Robert Pinson and his wife Clarice Pinson. The parties are coterminous landowners, having acquired title to their respective properties from a common grantor, George Rush, who is an intervenor in this case. The controversy between the parties involves the ownership and right of maintenance and upkeep of a thirty-foot strip of land bounded on the east by appellant's western property line, on the west by the center line of Bluff Road, and on the north by Ronna Ki Road.

In 1965 Rush divided his tract of land into two parcels. On August 26, 1970, he deeded to appellants the parcel lying in the northern half of the tract. The deed contained a reservation describing the thirty foot strip and retaining title in Rush but granting to appellants "an easement over, along, and across to be used in common with others...." According to Rush and the appellants, they contemporaneously entered into an oral agreement that if the thirty foot strip was not subsequently needed for road purposes (i. e., in the event Bluff Road was not widened), Rush would convey the strip to the appellants. Until that time, Rush would have the right to improve, change or modify the strip; in fact, he maintained several permanent light fixtures, shrubbery and a rock garden in the strip of land.

In August of 1971, Rush sold the remainder of his property in the tract to the appellees. This property abutted that owned by appellants. The deed from Rush included a description of the thirty-foot strip over which the easement had been granted to appellants. Immediately prior to this conveyance, Rush, the appellees and appellants entered into an agreement whereby Rush agreed to sell all the property owned by him. The agreement stated that the appellants "shall continue to have an easement for ingress and egress over along and across, in common with others, a 30 foot strip of land lying immediately west and adjacent to the property conveyed." Soon thereafter, the appellants began construction of their house, which includes a U-shaped driveway which crosses the thirty foot strip at two places and enters onto Bluff Road. This is the only access to appellants' residence.

The appellees' residence is located on the tract of land lying to the south of the appellants' land. The appellees maintained the strip of land in question by mowing the grass from the date they purchased their land in 1971 until April of 1978 when the appellants ordered them to cease cutting the grass on the strip. Appellees then brought suit to enjoin the appellants from interfering with their upkeep of the property and for a judicial determination establishing the boundary line between the two pieces of property.

A motion to intervene pursuant to Rule 24, ARCP, requesting a declaratory judgment as to any of his rights in the disputed tract, was granted to George Rush. The appellants then filed a counterclaim alleging that the deed from Rush to appellees did not reflect their true intentions and that it mistakenly transferred to appellees the thirty-foot strip. The counterclaim requested that the deeds and agreements between all parties be reformed to reflect the true intentions of Rush, appellants and appellees.

The case was tried primarily on stipulations and documentary evidence, and partially on the testimony of the parties and a surveyor, Mr. Barry. Sitting without a jury, the trial court made findings of fact and decreed that: (1) appellants' deed truly reflects Rush's intentions at the time of the conveyance; (2) appellants are not the owners of the thirty-foot strip; (3) appellees are the owners in fee of the approximate forty-five foot strip west of and adjoining the appellants' land, subject to certain easements and restrictions; (4) appellants have the right to use Bluff Road as a driveway to and from their property; (5) the thirty-foot strip between the center line of Bluff Road and appellants' west line is subject to the restriction that it shall not be used or maintained differently from the way in which it was being used and maintained on August 26, 1970, except that Bluff Road may be widened or relocated eastward up to, but not to cross, the appellants' west line; and (6) if Bluff Road is widened or relocated, the appellants will still have the right of access to and use of their driveway.

The appellants filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment or in the alternative for a new trial. This motion was denied.

Three issues are presented: Whether the trial court erred by refusing to reform the deeds; whether there was substantial conflict in the evidence to justify indulgence in the presumption favoring the trial court's findings; and whether there was credible evidence to support the trial court's ruling fixing the boundary line between the parties' properties.

The general rule is that a court may exercise its equitable powers to reform a deed to make it conform to the intentions of the parties. Clipper v. Gordon, 253 Ala. 428, 44 So.2d 576 (1950). And where reformation is sought solely on the ground of mistake, with no fraud intervening, mutuality of mistake is essential. Original Church of God v. Perkins, 292 Ala. 283, 293 So.2d 292 (1974); Duckett v. Lipscomb, 287 Ala. 668, 255 So.2d 12 (1971). An error in drafting establishes mutuality of mistake. Williams v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 453 F.Supp. 967 (S.D.Ala.1978); Fidelity Service Ins. Co. v. A. B. Legg & Sons Burial Ins. Co., 274 Ala. 84, 145 So.2d 811 (1962). In such a case, the party opposing the instrument must produce evidence that is clear, convincing, and satisfactory, which proves that the deed does not truly express the intentions of the parties. Adams v. Adams, 346 So.2d 1146 (Ala.1977); Fidelity Service Ins. Co. v. A. B. Legg & Sons Burial Ins. Co., supra; Original Church of God v. Perkins, supra. Even if the plaintiff meets this burden of proof, he must also show that the reformation will not prejudice the rights of innocent third parties. Adams v. Adams, supra ; Code 1975, § 8-1-2.

Appellants contend that Rush conveyed the thirty-foot strip to appellees by mistake and that their deed from Rush did not express their intentions which were that Rush would convey the strip to appellants when he was certain that Bluff Road would not have to be relocated.

Appellants further contend that, because there was no material conflict in the evidence, the presumption of correctness in favor of the trial court should not be applied in our review. State v. Kershaw Mfg. Co., 273 Ala. 215, 137 So.2d 740 (1962); Wright v. Price, 226 Ala. 591, 147...

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20 cases
  • Pullum v. Pullum
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 24, 2010
    ...reformed must produce clear and convincing evidence that the instrument does not express the intent of the parties. Pinson v. Veach, 388 So.2d 964 (Ala.1980). “[T]he parol evidence rule is no impediment when one seeks to reform a conveyance because of mutual mistake.” West v. Law, 577 So.2d......
  • Jacks v. Taylor, No. 2060455 (Ala. Civ. App. 11/2/2007)
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • November 2, 2007
  • Clemons v. Mallett
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 20, 1984
    ...that a court may exercise its equitable powers to reform a deed to make it conform to the intention of the parties. See Pinson v. Veach, 388 So.2d 964 (Ala.1980); Clipper v. Gordon, 253 Ala. 428, 44 So.2d 576 (1950). One of the established grounds for reformation of an instrument is mutuali......
  • Brown v. Butts, 2140962.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • February 12, 2016
    ...reformed must produce clear and convincing evidence that the instrument does not express the intent of the parties. Pinson v. Veach, 388 So.2d 964 (Ala.1980). ‘[T]he parol evidence rule is no impediment when one seeks to reform a conveyance because of mutual mistake.’ West v. Law, 577 So.2d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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