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Posted by: Barry Kolar on Jul 31, 2014

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Matthew A. Grossman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Richard Neal Bailey and Lisa Bailey Dishner.

Attorneys 2:

Thomas M. Hale and Adam G. Russell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Dale Littleton, Kimber Littleton, and Mark Lee Littleton.2

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This is the second appeal to this Court involving the instant real property dispute. At issue is a 58-acre portion (“Disputed Property”) of what was an approximately 100-acre tract acquired by N.B. Bailey and his wife, Pearl Bailey, by warranty deed in 1918. The original plaintiffs, Arthur B. and Tia Roberts,1 were neighboring landowners who brought a boundary dispute action in March 2009 against the original defendants, Robert W. Bailey, Richard Neal Bailey, and Lisa Bailey Dishner (“the Baileys”). During the course of the boundary dispute, N.B. and Pearl Bailey’s descendants and successors in title became aware that their ownership interest in the Disputed Property could be affected by the possibility that N.B. and Pearl Bailey owned the original 100 acres as tenants in common rather than tenants by the entirety. The first appeal arose when the Baileys, proceeding as third-party plaintiffs, filed a motion to quiet title to the Disputed Property against the third-party defendants, Dale Littleton, Alice Littleton, Kimber Littleton, Mark Lee Littleton, and Charlotte Dutton (“The Littletons and Ms. Dutton”). On March 30, 2010, the trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the Littletons and Ms. Dutton, and the court certified its order as a final judgment pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02. On appeal, this Court questioned the finality of that March 2010 order but allowed the appeal to proceed on an interlocutory basis. Roberts v. Bailey, 338 S.W.3d 540, 541 n.1 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010), perm. denied (Tenn. Mar. 9, 2011) (“Roberts I”). This Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling and held that because N.B. and Pearl Bailey acquired title during the “gap years” between the emancipation of women and enactment of the Bejach statutes reestablishing tenancies by the entirety–spanning January 1, 1914, through April 16, 1919–N.B. and Pearl Bailey owned the real property as tenants in common rather than as tenants by the entireties. Id. at 541. On remand, the Baileys moved to amend their third-party complaint, averring that despite the affirmed judgment in favor of the Littletons’ and Ms. Dutton’s ownership interest in the Disputed Property, the Baileys nonetheless possessed absolute fee simple title by prescription to the entire Disputed Property. The trial court granted the Baileys’ motion to amend the complaint and subsequently considered competing motions for summary judgment. The trial court found, inter alia, that the Baileys failed to establish title by prescription because the Littletons and Ms. Dutton had no knowledge of their co-tenancy prior to initiation of this action. The court granted summary judgment to the Littletons and Ms. Dutton, quieting title to the Disputed Property among the parties. The Baileys appeal. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.