Friday, May 29, 2009

Landowners prohibited from obstructing road because it was deemed to be a county road; did not have title to convey

LAWRENCE COUNTY v. GEORGE SHAFFER, ET UX, ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. February 13, 2009).

After Lawrence County landowners installed a gate across an unpaved rural road, the County filed a declaratory judgment action to determine the rights of all the parties whose properties adjoined that road, as well as the right of the County to remove the obstruction. The landowners who installed the gate argued that the road had never been legally declared a county road and that the gate was necessary to prevent their neighbors from trespassing on their property. After a hearing, the trial court found (1) that the road was a county road and (2) that its entire length was contained in an easement which no one was allowed to obstruct. The court accordingly ordered the landowners to remove the gate. We affirm.

The opinion may be found at the TBA website:

It is axiomatic that you cannot convey an estate greater than the one you received. A deed which purports to convey a greater estate than the grantor has will be void only as to the excess and will be construed as a conveyance of that which it was in his power to convey.”  It follows that the Lesters could not convey an ownership interest in the roadway to the Shaffers even if they had wanted to.  But, their deed to the Shaffers demonstrates an opposite intention, for it states that it includes “all property that lies to the right of the above described roadway and easement formerly conveyed to George Shaffer and wife Pat Shaffer...”  Thus, the Shaffers only obtained property on one side of the roadway, and therefore had no right to install a fence on the other side."Id.