Strain v. Hinkle

Decision Date28 September 1984
Citation457 So.2d 394
PartiesCharles E. STRAIN & George L. Morris III v. Eugenia B. Vail HINKLE & E.V. Hinkle. 83-473.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

John F. DeBuys, Jr. of Corley, Moncus, Bynum & DeBuys, Birmingham, for appellants.

J. Clewis Trucks of Trucks, Parsons & Guyton, Fairfield, for appellees.

ALMON, Justice.

This is an appeal from an order granting a motion to dismiss. Because the order did not adjudicate the rights of all parties to the action, the trial court certified the order as final pursuant to the provision of Rule 54(b), A.R.Civ.P.

The dispute concerns an easement for a driveway over two adjoining parcels of land. The easement was created in 1955 by deeds between the owners of the lots. Terry L. Burchfield and Cathy W. Burchfield purchased Lot 41 on February 25, 1980, and mortgaged the lot to Engel Mortgage Company, Inc., on that date. E.V. Hinkle and Eugenia B. Vail Hinkle acquired Lot 40 from Mrs. Hinkle's father, who was one of the parties creating the easement in 1955. The driveway runs along the border of the lots, partially on one lot and partially on the other, and then forks to reach separate parking areas in the rear of the two lots.

On September 5, 1982, the Burchfields contracted with Strain Construction Company to build a new house for them elsewhere. The contract provided that if the Burchfields could not sell their house on Lot 41 on the open market, Strain Construction Company would purchase it for $2,600 equity and assume the mortgage. On or about February 21, 1983, Charles B. Strain and George L. Morris III agreed to take Strain Construction Company's position and purchase the house and Lot 41, which had not sold on the market. A closing took place on April 19, 1983, at which the Burchfields purchased the new house built by Strain Construction Company and Strain and Morris purchased the Lot 41 property.

Meanwhile, on January 27, 1983, the Hinkles and the Burchfields executed deeds terminating the driveway easement. The Burchfields "release[d], quit claim[ed], grant[ed], [sold], and convey[ed] ... all their right, title, interest and claim in or to ... Lot 40 ..., particularly that part of the joint driveway lying between said Lots 40 and 41 but lying in and being a part of said Lot 40." The Hinkles similarly conveyed their interest in Lot 41. These deeds were recorded on February 2, 1983.

Strain, Morris, and Engel Mortgage Company filed a complaint on July 29, 1983, against the Burchfields and the Hinkles. The complaint alleged that the Hinkles had erected a fence along the property line approximately two weeks after Strain and Morris purchased the property, thereby obstructing the use of the driveway and preventing access to the rear of the lot and the garage located there. The complaint further alleged that Engel Mortgage Company neither was aware of nor joined in the conveyance of the driveway easement, and that the conveyances were not communicated to nor mentioned to Strain and Morris until after the erection of the fence.

Strain, Morris, and Engel sought declaratory relief determining "the respective rights of the parties with respect to the use of the driveway together with the rights and obligations between Plaintiff, Engel Mortgage Company, and Defendants regarding title to the driveway." Strain and Morris included additional prayers for relief, seeking, in one prayer, rescission of the deed and contract between them and the Burchfields, or, in the other prayer, compensatory damages for obstruction of the driveway by the actions of the Burchfields and the Hinkles and punitive damages for intentional fraud by the Burchfields.

The Burchfields and the Hinkles filed separate motions to dismiss the complaint. The trial court granted the Hinkles' motion, allowing plaintiffs 21 days to amend. Strain, Morris, and Engel filed an amended complaint, alleging that the purported conveyances were defective and did not terminate the rights of the owners to use the joint driveway, and that the Hinkles were causing damage to the plaintiffs by the erection of the fence. The amended complaint requested that the Hinkles be required to remove the fence and to pay damages.

The Hinkles filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state "a cause of action against the said Defendants upon which relief may be granted." See Rule 12(b)(6), A.R.Civ.P. The trial court granted this motion as to Strain and Morris, giving them 21 days to amend, but denied it as to Engel.

Strain, Morris, and Engel filed a second amendment to the complaint, realleging the averments of the original complaint and the prior amendment. This second amended complaint included, as exhibits, documents setting forth the pertinent chains of title to Lots 40 and 41. This complaint averred that

"the paragraph of the [1955] joint driveway agreement that addresses any modification of same is as follows:

" 'It is understood and agreed that the existing joint driveway shall not be changed or moved except by the consent of the parties hereto or their assigns.' "

It then alleged that the quitclaim deeds did not terminate the driveway easement, because, inter alia, "not all necessary assigns have executed or joined in any agreement to change or modify the original joint driveway agreement." The second amended complaint asked the court t...

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2 cases
  • Morton v. Prescott
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1990
    ...can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief under some cognizable theory of law. Strain v. Hinkle, 457 So.2d 394 (Ala.1984). Accepting the facts alleged in Morton's complaint as true and viewing them in a light most favorable to Morton, we conclude tha......
  • Selma Foundry and Supply Co., Inc. v. Peoples Bank and Trust Co.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • April 24, 1992
    ...can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief under some cognizable theory of law. Strain v. Hinkle, 457 So.2d 394 (Ala.1984)." Morton v. Prescott, 564 So.2d 913, 916 (Ala.1990). "A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief ... shall contain (1) a sho......

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