Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ROGER BALL ET AL. v. BRUCE McDOWELL ET AL. (Tenn. Sup. Ct. July 9, 2009)

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that they have "a right-of-way easement" granted by deed and requesting the removal of encroachments by the defendants. The trial court granted the requested relief and held that the defendants failed to prove their claim of adverse possession. The trial court entered two consecutive "final" judgments. The defendants filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment within thirty days of entry of the second judgment. The plaintiffs responded that the defendants' motion was untimely because it was filed more than thirty days after entry of the first judgment. The trial court denied the defendants' motion to alter or amend without expressly ruling that the second judgment was the final judgment. The Court of Appeals concluded that the thirty-day period for filing the motion commenced with the entry of the second judgment and that the motion to alter or amend therefore was timely. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and held that the defendants' claim of adverse possession was meritorious. We conclude that the first judgment constituted the "final judgment" and commenced the time for filing post-trial motions pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59.02. The defendants' motion to alter or amend therefore was untimely, and the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider the defendants' appeal. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand to the trial court for dismissal of the case.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website: