IN YOUR DREAMS, INC. et al.
RAISIN'S RANCH, LLC
BARNES, P. J., MERCIER and BROWN, JJ.
Ranch, LLC, as an alleged assignee of Susan Purcell, brought
this action for declaratory judgment against In Your Dreams,
Inc. and Anita Ryan to resolve a dispute over the existence
and use of an easement on property which belongs to Purcell
and which adjoins property owned by Ryan. Raisin's
Ranch asserted that no valid easement existed to encumber
Purcell's property. On cross-motions for partial summary
judgment, the trial court granted Raisin's Ranch's
motion and denied In Your Dreams and Ryan's motion,
finding that no valid easement existed. In Your Dreams and
Ryan now appeal the trial court's ruling granting
Raisin's Ranch's motion. For the reasons that follow,
we reverse the trial court's order.
On appeal, we review the trial court's grant of summary
judgment de novo to determine whether the evidence of record,
viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
demonstrates any genuine issue of material fact. Summary
judgment is proper only when there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.
(Citations and footnotes omitted.) Gilbert v. Fine,
288 Ga.App. 20, 21 (653 S.E.2d 775) (2007).
viewed, the evidence shows that in 1992, Ryan acquired a
parcel of land by way of warranty deed. In conjunction with
the deed, a plat depicting the property conveyed was recorded
in the public record ("the 1992 Plat"). In 1997,
Ryan recorded another plat ("the 1997 Plat"),
depicting the property she owned at the time divided into
three separate tracts referred to as "Tract A,"
"Tract A-1," and "Tract B." The 1997 Plat
also depicts a "50 ACCESS ESMT TO TRACT A-1" which
begins at the point where the boundary of Tract A and Tract B
meets "Birmingham Road/Highway 372," and continues
to the boundary of Tract A and Tract A-1 ("the
Easement"). The Easement benefits Tracts A and A-1 and
burdens Tract B. The 1997 Plat does not appear to relate to
any transfer or conveyance of the property and is the first
recorded document referencing the Easement on the property
owned by Ryan.
November 13, 2000, Ryan conveyed to herself five lots within
Tract B, as depicted in the 1997 Plat, via warranty deed.
Over the next few years, Ryan conveyed these five lots to
various individuals and to a limited liability company. On
June 24, 2004, Ryan pledged Tracts A and A-1 as security for
debt owed to Washington Mutual Bank, FA and executed a
security deed which was recorded in the public record. The
legal description of the property to be encumbered by the
June 24, 2004 security deed references the 1997 Plat. No
specific reference is made to the Easement depicted in the
November 16, 2004, Ryan further encumbered Tract A of her
property in favor of Wachovia Bank, National Association by
executing an "Open-End Deed to Secure Debt." The
legal description of the property does not reference the 1997
Plat or the Easement, but references the 1992
14, 2006, Ryan executed a "Deed to Secure Debt,
Assignment of Rents and Security Agreement" in favor of
Power Lending, LLC ("2006 Power Lending Deed").
Pursuant to this agreement, Ryan pledged, as collateral, a
portion of Tract B as described in the 1997 Plat. Power
Lending subsequently assigned its rights in the July 14, 2006
deed to RBC Bank (USA).
Ryan defaulted on the underlying debt, RBC foreclosed on the
property on August 2, 2011. Susan Purcell purchased the
encumbered portion of Tract B ("the servient
estate") from PNC Bank, successor by merger to RBC, by
limited warranty deed and quitclaim deed on August 27, 2013.
The legal descriptions therein do not reference any easement
on the property, nor do they reference the 1997 Plat.
Believing it to be a valid easement, Ryan and In Your Dreams
continued to use the roadway on the servient estate as a
means of accessing their property - Tracts A and A-1 as
specified in the 1997 Plat ("the dominant estate").
Purcell manages Raisin's Ranch, LLC - the plaintiff in
this declaratory judgment action - on the servient estate as
a commercial enterprise.
Ranch filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that a
valid easement did not exist to encumber its alleged
property. In Your Dreams and Ryan answered and brought
counterclaims for continuing trespass and attorney fees. On
cross-motions for partial summary judgment, the trial court
granted partial summary judgment to Raisin's Ranch and
denied that of Ryan and In Your Dreams. The trial court
concluded that Ryan had failed to create an express easement,
and alternatively that if she had successfully created the
Easement, it was extinguished by the subsequent foreclosure
of the servient estate. The trial court also found that no
easement was created by either implication or necessity. In
Your Dreams and Ryan now appeal the trial court's order,
contending that the Easement was expressly created by the
1997 Plat, and alternatively, that an easement by implication
or necessity was created.
Declaratory Judgment Act
gives superior courts the power to declare rights and other
legal relations of any interested party in "cases of
actual controversy" under OCGA § 9-4-2 (a) and
"in any civil case in which it appears to the court that
the ends of justice require that the declaration should be
made." OCGA § 9-4-2 (b).
Leitch v. Fleming, 291 Ga. 669, 670 (732 S.E.2d 401)
(2012). "There can be no justiciable controversy unless
there are interested parties asserting adverse claims upon a
state of facts which have accrued." (Citation and
punctuation omitted.) Bd. of Natural Res. v. Monroe
County, 252 Ga.App. 555, 557 (1) (556 S.E.2d 834)
(2001). And in order to show it is an "interested
party" under the Declaratory Judgment Act, "a party