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2011-UP-346 - Batson v. Northside Traders

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

Louis P. Batson, Jr., Respondent,

v.

Northside Traders, LLC, Appellant.


Appeal From Greenville County
John C. Few, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2011-UP-346 
Submitted March 1, 2011 – Filed June 29, 2011


AFFIRMED


Douglas A. Churdar, of Greenville, for Appellant.

Calvin Theodore Vick, Jr., of Greenville, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Northside Traders, LLC appeals the order of the trial court declaring an easement in favor of Louis P. Batson, Jr. was valid and enforceable.  We affirm.[1]

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Batson was an adjoining landowner with Charles and Anne Bell.  He owned the property known as Lot 4 while the Bells owned Lots 1, 2, and 3, as well as a strip of land located between Lot 3 and Dogwood Trail, a private drive.  On July 21, 1965, the Bells granted Batson an express easement across their property to his adjoining property (the Instrument).  The Instrument granted Batson:

A right-of-way twenty (20) feet in width, for the purpose of ingress and egress, leading from the rear portion of Lot 4 . . . across the rear portions of Lots 3 and 2, and then in a Southeasterly direction through Lot 1, and through a strip of land described in a deed from Aleene L. Parham to Charles W. Bell and Anne W. Bell . . . into Dogwood Drive [also known as Dogwood Trail].

The aforementioned right-of-way shall be in such specific location (not inconsistent with the above general location) as shall least interfere with the use and development of said lots by the grantors, and at the election of the grantors, the use of said right-of-way by the grantee shall be in common with the grantors. 

At the time of the execution of the Instrument, Dogwood Trail was a private road and remains that way today.  The former owners of Dogwood Trail and the property east of the Bells' property had transferred the road to Greenville County in 1952.  The County, however, transferred the road back to then-owners C.E. Singleton and Julia Belle Singleton in 1954.  Doril L. Howell is the current owner of the property and has not granted Batson the right to use the road.  Batson has yet to construct a roadway pursuant to the Instrument. 

Tad Mallory purchased the Bells' property on September 8, 2005.  He subsequently transferred the property to Northside Traders, LLC, of which he is the managing member.  Soon after Mallory acquired the property, Batson contacted him about reaching an agreement as to the specific location of the easement.  Mallory did not deny being aware of the easement.   Instead, he stated he believed it was not enforceable and was void. 

Batson brought this action seeking a declaration he has a valid and enforceable easement terminating at View Point Drive.  He also requested an injunction prohibiting Northside from interfering with his right to construct a road terminating at View Point Drive. 

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.  The trial court held, "[i]t is clear that the grantors' intent was to give Batson, his heirs and assigns a right-of-way through the grantor's property that ultimately terminated at View Point Drive.  The Instrument evidences this intent, and the grantors incorporated sufficient flexibility into the Instrument to allow the right-of-way to continue south through Lot 1 into View Point Drive."  Thus, the trial court declared the easement valid and enforceable and ruled Batson, his heirs and assigns could install and enjoy the right of way in the general location described in the Instrument, with such right-of-way terminating at View Point Drive.  This appeal followed. 

LAW/ANALYSIS

Northside argues that the easement was void ab initio or is extinguished.  It asserts the purpose of the easement was to provide ingress and egress into Dogwood Trail and because Batson did not have the right to use Dogwood Trail, the easement could never be used.  We disagree with this interpretation of the Instrument creating the easement. 

"A grant of an easement is to be construed in accordance with the rules applied to deeds and other written instruments."  K & A Acquisition Group, LLC v. Island Pointe, LLC, 383 S.C. 563, 581, 682 S.E.2d 252, 262 (2009) (internal quotation omitted).  In construing a deed, "the intention of the grantor must be ascertained and effectuated, unless that intention contravenes some well settled rule of law or public policy."  Id.(internal quotation omitted.)  "In determining the grantor's intent, the deed must be construed as a whole and effect given to every part if it can be done consistently with the law."  Id.(internal quotation omitted)

Reading the Instrument as a whole, we agree with the trial court the purpose of the Instrument was to give Batson an easement through the Bells' property "for the purpose of ingress and egress" to his property and not specifically to grant him access "into Dogwood Trail."  According to a survey prepared for Mallory, Dogwood Trail intersects with View Point Drive slightly to the south of the "strip of land."  It leads to no other public road.  As the trial court noted, if the purpose of the Instrument was to give Batson ingress and egress into Dogwood Drive, there would have been no reason to direct the easement through the "strip of land" when the more direct route would have been north of the strip of land. 

The Instrument clearly provided the specifications given were for a "general location" of the easement and provided for flexibility in locating the easement.  The fact that Batson had other access to View Point Drive is immaterial as the easement is not one by necessity.  We hold the parties intended for Batson to have additional access to his property through the Bells' property.  We find the Instrument is valid and enforceable. 

Northside also argues the trial court erred in relocating the easement to terminate at the public road, View Point Drive.  See Sheppard v. Justin Enters., 373 S.C. 518, 521, 646 S.E.2d 177, 178 (Ct. App. 2007) (stating the location of an easement, once selected or fixed, cannot be changed by the owner of the servient estate without the express or implied consent of the owner of the dominant estate).  This case, however, does not involve the relocation of an existing express easement.  Instead, it involves the initial placement of the right-of-way pursuant to a grant that provided a "general location" for the right-of-way and called for flexibility in the placement.  The trial court's order providing for the right-of-way to terminate at View Point Drive effectuates the intent of the parties to the Instrument.  We find no error in the trial court's ruling. 

Accordingly, the order of the trial court is

AFFIRMED. 

HUFF, SHORT, and PIEPER, JJ., concur. 


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.