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South Carolina: State Supreme Court Reinstates a Finding of an Implied Easement

Posted By USFN, Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2018
May 15, 2018

by Ronald Scott and Reginald Corley
Scott & Corley, P.A. – USFN Member (South Carolina)

In the recent South Carolina Supreme Court case, Gooldy v. The Center-Platt Springs, LLC1, the Court held that an implied easement encumbered property of the Respondent Storage Center-Platt Springs. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s ruling. The Supreme Court relied on Blue Ridge Realty Co. v. Williamson,2 holding that the petitioner, Gooldy, was entitled to the rebuttable presumption of an implied easement.

Background
The facts in this case are that in 1986, Congaree Associates (the owner of the subdivision) conveyed the subject property to Loflin. The deed of conveyance contained, by reference, a plat (Loflin Plat) outlining the disputed easement. The easement referenced in the Loflin Plat included the inscription “50’ Road” along the southern boundary of the Petitioner Gooldy’s property. Petitioner’s property is surrounded on three sides by Respondent Storage Center’s property. Over the course of 16 years, the subject parcel was conveyed four more times, each by a deed incorporating the Loflin Plat. The final of the four conveyances was to Petitioner in January of 2002.

In 2007, Congaree conveyed the neighboring lot to Respondent by deed, referencing a different plat — one that did not include the road. There was no dispute that the Loflin Plat was within the Storage Center’s chain of title. Shortly thereafter, Respondent informed Petitioner that he was no longer permitted to use the road. Petitioner subsequently brought suit to determine if he was entitled to an easement by implication or estoppel, or by prescription.

Supreme Court’s Review
Petitioner advanced two arguments before the Supreme Court as to why the Court of Appeals erred and, therefore, why the trial court’s decision should be reinstated. First, Petitioner contended that it was an error to hold that the deed’s reference to the Loflin Plat did not raise the presumption of an implied easement. The Supreme Court, quoting Blue Ridge, stated that, “[A]ccording to the great weight of judicial opinion, the lot purchaser is entitled to the use of all the streets and ways, near or remote, as laid down on the plat by which he purchases.”3 Furthermore, Petitioner maintained that the general rule was “that where a deed describes land as is shown on a certain plat, such plat becomes a part of the deed.”4 The Supreme Court also relied on McAllister v. Smiley5 in which it concluded that an implied easement arose where the deed referred to a plat that contained a road, and no evidence existed that the parties intended to negate the grant of the easement. The Supreme Court concluded that under the Blue Ridge case, Petitioner was entitled to the rebuttable presumption of an implied easement.

Second, Petitioner asserted that evidence in the record supported the trial court’s decision that the 1986 conveyance was subject to an implied easement. The Supreme Court stated that the trial court correctly looked at the parties’ intent within a narrow scope, evaluating only the time of the 1986 conveyance to determine if an easement was intended to be created. The Supreme Court, quoting Boyd v. Bellsouth Tel. Tel. Co.,6 stated that “Whatever easements are created by implication must be determined as of the time of the severance of the ownership of the tracts involved.” The Court determined that the evidence suggested that Congaree, at the time of preparation of the Loflin Plat, intended to build the road, and there was no evidence as to when the plan was abandoned — thus finding that the record supported the trial court’s decision that Congaree intended to convey an easement in the 1986 conveyance.

1 See Gooldy v. The Storage Center-Platt Springs, Op. No. 27782 (S.C. Mar. 14, 2018).
2 See Blue Ridge Realty Co. v. Williamson, 247 S.C. 112, 120, 145 S.E. 2d 922, 925 (1965).
3 Id. at 247 S.C. 120, 145 S.E.2d at 925.
4 Id. at 247 S.C. 118, 145 S.E.2d at 924.
5 See McAllister v. Smiley, 301 S.C. 10, 12, 389 S.E.2d 857, 859 (1990).
6 See Boyd v. Bellsouth Tel. Tel. Co., 369 S.C. 410, 416, 633 S.E.2d 136, 139 (2006).

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