All Content

Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Dec 18, 2013

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Joseph Howell Johnston, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, North Edgefield Organized Neighbors, Inc.

Attorneys 2:

J. Graham Matherne, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

This appeal arises from a Complaint to Quiet Title and for Declaratory Relief filed by Wal- Mart Stores East, L.P. Pursuant to a 2008 Quitclaim Deed, Wal-Mart conveyed, subject to a reversion clause, a one-quarter acre parcel to the defendant upon which stood a 1930’s era Fire Hall. The reversion clause states, in pertinent part, that fee-simple ownership of the property shall revert to Wal-Mart in the event the improvements are subject to any casualty. “Casualty” is defined in the deed to include a fire that results in damage to all or substantially all of the Fire Hall or damage that is not repaired within 180 days after the occurrence of such casualty. It is undisputed that substantially all of the Fire Hall was damaged following a fire that occurred on December 1, 2011. This action ensued, and Wal-Mart subsequently filed a motion for summary judgement contending fee-simple title reverted to Wal-Mart due to the December 2011 casualty. The defendant did not dispute the fact that substantially all of the Fire Hall was damaged by the fire; nevertheless, the defendant opposed the motion on the basis that the term “casualty,” as defined in the deed, is ambiguous. The trial court concluded as a matter of law that the term “casualty” was clear and unambiguous, that the damage resulting from the December 2011 fire constituted a casualty, and that the property reverted back to Wal-Mart. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the petitioner. The defendant appeals. We affirm.