THE ATLANTA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY et al.
ANSLEY WALK CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. et al.
MILLER, P. J., RICKMAN and REESE, JJ.
Atlanta Development Authority d/b/a Invest Atlanta, Atlanta
BeltLine, Inc., and the City of Atlanta (collectively
"the Appellants") appeal the trial court's
order denying their motion to dismiss an inverse condemnation
and trespass action filed by Ansley Walk Condominium
Association, Inc., individually and on behalf of a class of
similarly situated persons (collectively "the
Appellees"). The Appellants claim that the trial court
misinterpreted the contract language found in an agreement
titled "Termination of Railroad Easement"
(henceforth "the Agreement"). For the reasons set
forth infra, we disagree and affirm the ruling of the trial
in the light most favorable to the non-movant,  the amended
complaint alleges the following facts. The property at
issue involves a 3.46-mile portion of the Atlanta BeltLine,
formerly operated as a railroad by Norfolk Southern Railroad
("NSR"). On March 7, 2017, NSR entered into the
Agreement with the Atlanta Development Authority
("ADA"). The Agreement included the following
WHEREAS, NSR has obtained from the Surface Transportation
Board authority to abandon any and all right and obligation
pursuant to federal law to provide common carrier rail
transportation in the Corridor as set forth in the Decision of
the Surface Transportation Board in STB Docket No. 290
(Sub-No. 210X), Norfolk Southern Railway Company
-Abandonment Exemption -in Fulton County, GA (Service
Date June 9, 2009); and
WHEREAS NSR has exercised its authority to abandon its rail
common carrier rights in the Corridor and has consummated the
abandonment effective as of October 22, 2010, pursuant to the
Notice of Consummation of Abandonment NSR filed on that date
in STB Docket No. 290 (Sub-No. 210X); and
WHEREAS, NSR has fully divested itself of all of its right,
title and interest in the Corridor and any obligation
pursuant to 49 USC § 10901 to provide common carrier
freight transportation in the Corridor; and . . .
WHEREAS, NSR now desires to terminate its easement of right
of way for all passenger and freight railroad purposes over,
upon and across the Corridor [.]
Agreement then states:
1.[Termination of Railroad Easement]. Effective as of the
date hereof, the NSR Railroad Easement is hereby terminated
in its entirety and shall have no further force and effect.
Without limiting the foregoing, NSR by execution hereof
quitclaims, remises and releases unto ADA any right, title or
interest (including, without limitation, any easement rights)
in, to, over, across, under, through, and upon any portion of
the Corridor arising out of the NSR Railroad Easement.
2.[Miscellaneous]. This Termination shall be construed and
enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia
and shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of ADA,
its successors and assigns and all subsequent owners of all
or any part of the Corridor formerly benefitted or encumbered
by the NSR Railroad Easement.
Appellees filed the amended complaint requesting class
certification and claiming the condominium owners were
adjacent landowners who owned fee title in land adjoining and
within the disputed property on the date NSR abandoned its
railroad-purpose easement. According to the amended
complaint, the original railroad instruments granted only
railroad-purpose easements; deeds and agreements show that
NSR's predecessors in interest received railroad-purpose
easements over the land, but the original owners of the land
retained a fee simple interest in the subject property,
burdened by the railroad-purpose easements. The amended
complaint contends that NSR abandoned its railroad-purpose
easement when it executed the Agreement on March 7, 2017,
resulting in the Appellees holding fee simple title to the
land, unencumbered by any railroad easement. The Appellees
sought damages from the Appellants' alleged inverse
condemnation and trespass, in addition to attorney fees,
costs, and expenses.
Appellants moved to dismiss the amended complaint,
arguing that NSR's easement transferred to them and the
Appellees failed to set forth a claim for inverse
condemnation or trespass. The trial court denied the
Appellants' motions, but granted a certificate of
immediate review. This appeal followed.
review the grant or denial of a motion to dismiss de novo,
construing the pleadings in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff[s] with any doubts ...