Heard in the Court of Appeals January 22, 2014.
Currituck County. No. 09 CVS 338. Currituck County. No. 10 CVS 223. Currituck County. No. 10 CVS 225. Currituck County. No. 10 CVS 275. Currituck County. No. 10 CVS 288. Currituck County. No. 10 CVS 362. Currituck County. No. 11 CVS 49. Currituck County. No. 11 CVS 54. Currituck County. No. 11 CVS 62.
Vandeventer Black LLP, by Norman W. ShearinMr. and Ashley P. HolmesMs., for plaintiff-appellant Allen Toby Hedgepeth.
Thompson & Pureza, P.A., by C. Everett Thompson, IIMr., and David R. Pureza, for defendant-appellees Parker's Landing Property Owners Association, Inc., Forrest E. Midgette, Jody E. Midgette, and Sunny's Partnership.
Ward and Smith, P.A., by Eric J. RemingtonMr., for defendant-appellee Betty P. Lewis.
Gregory E. Wills, P.C., by Gregory E. WillsMr., for defendant-appellee Sandra K. Parker.
Brumsey & Brumsey, PLLC, by William Brumsey, IVMr., for defendant-appellees Sharon M. Taylor, Marion R. Crank, Jr., Jennifer R. Crank, Wayne Derrell Crank, and Sandra R. Crank.
Mr. Dan L. Merrell and Glenn R. Weiser, for defendant-appellees Peter F. LoFaso and Kelly M. LoFaso.
Boxley, Bolton, Garber & Haywood, L.L.P., by Ronald H. GarberMr., for defendant-appellee Maxine A. Easton.
STEELMAN, Judge. Judges STEPHENS and DAVIS concur.
Appeal by plaintiff Hedgepeth from order entered 19
December 2012 by Judge Marvin K. Blount, III in Currituck County Superior Court.
The Parker's Landing Property Owners' Association, Inc. (POA) is bound by the ruling in a prior federal court order under the principle of res judicata as to the 25-foot easement that crosses a lot owned by POA. We reverse the ruling of the trial court on this specific issue. As to the other claims against POA, the principles of res judicata are not applicable, and we affirm the ruling of the trial court denying the motions of Allen Toby Hedgepeth (Hedgepeth) for summary judgment. The federal court order does not constitute res judicata or collateral estoppel with respect to the claims against individual subdivision lot owners, and we affirm the ruling of the trial court denying Hedgepeth's motions for summary judgment. The appeals of issues not based upon res judicata or collateral estoppel are dismissed. Any appeals not based upon the denial of Hedgepeth's motions for summary judgment in cases 09 CVS 338, 10 CVS 275, or 10 CVS 288 are also dismissed.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
The lands owned by the parties to the multiple lawsuits at issue in this appeal lie on a peninsula located in Currituck County and bounded on the east by Currituck Sound, and on the west by the North River. The peninsula runs in a generally north-south direction, and is bisected by U.S. Highway 158, which also runs in a generally north-south direction. Hedgepeth, as Trustee under the Allen Toby Hedgepeth Declaration of Trust dated 30 May 2011, owns a tract of land bounded on the east by Currituck Sound, and on the south and west by Parker's Landing Subdivision, as shown on an amended plat filed in Plat Cabinet E, pages 116 and 117, in the Currituck County Registry. (See Exhibit B attached to this opinion.) This subdivision lies to the west and south of the Hedgepeth property, and to the east of U.S. Highway 158. The final plat states that all streets in the subdivision are private and maintained by POA. The lots as shown on the amended plat run to the edge of a 50-foot road right-of-way.
Hedgepeth purchased the property at a foreclosure sale without procuring a title examination. He sought to develop the property, but was unable to do so without a 50-foot right-of-way leading from his property to U.S. Highway 158. These cases are the second round of litigation brought by Hedgepeth seeking to procure the necessary 50-foot right-of-way to U.S. Highway 158.
The first action was filed in 2007 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, styled as Allen Toby Hedgepeth, as Trustee under the Allen Toby Hedgepeth Declaration of Trust, dated 30 May 2001, plaintiff v. Parker's Landing Property Owners' Association, Inc., defendant, case number 2:07-CV-55-F3. On 5 June 2009, Judge Fox entered an order in that case. That order characterized the case as follows:
This is a purely state-law-based action in which the plaintiff, Allen Toby Hedgepeth, Trustee under the Allen Toby Hedgepeth Declaration of Trust (" Hedgepeth" ), seeks a declaratory judgment that he has a right of ingress and egress to his property by virtue of an easement across the defendant subdivision along a private road belonging to the defendant. Hedgepeth offers several theories under which his claim of an easement may be declared.
The order of the federal court held that Hedgepeth's theories of express easement, easement by necessity, and easement by equitable estoppel were all without merit. The substantive ruling of the federal court was as follows:
Regardless of the angle from which this case is viewed, or with which party a shifting-burdens inquiry begins, Hedgepeth, who ultimately must prove he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, unequivocally has demonstrated that he cannot do so insofar as he seeks declaration of an easement for use of Parker's Landing Drive to subdivide and develop the Hedgepeth tract.
However, the court finds that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the resolution of which could result in Parker's Landing Drive being subject to an easement benefitting the Hedgepeth Tract as depicted on the Smith Heirs Plat, Map Book 2A, Page 119, Currituck Registry. Therefore, Hedgepeth's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE-21] is DENIED.
However, the court concludes that the record demonstrates, and the defendant does not dispute, that an implied easement exists such that he has reasonable access to his property over the 25-foot right-of-way (Doris Lane) as shown on the plat of the heirs of Capitolia [sic] Smith, Plat Book 2A, Page 119, Currituck County Registry. Therefore, it hereby is DECLARED that the Parker's Landing tract, as shown on the August 30, 1993, Amended Final Plat, see DE-21, Exhibit C, is subject to a 10-foot easement and a 25-foot right-of-way (Doris Lane) as shown on the plat of the heirs of Capitolla Smith, Plat Book 2A, Page 119, Currituck County Registry, the scope of which may not exceed that necessary
to the farming or cultivation of the Hedgepeth tract, consistent with the use to which those paths were put when the common title to the two tracts was severed in 1894.
On 14 September 2009, Hedgepeth appealed Judge Fox's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. On 2 July 2010, the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion in that case, affirming Judge Fox's order. Hedgepeth v. Parker's Landing Property Owners Ass'n, 388 F.App'x 242 (4th Cir. 2010) (unpublished). Applying North Carolina law, the Fourth Circuit held that " the Final plat does not clearly show the intention to give an easement." Id. at 246 (citations and quotations omitted). Further, the Fourth Circuit held that Hedgepeth could present no evidence to support his argument that POA was precluded by quasi-estoppel from denying the existence of an easement over Parker's Landing Drive. Id. at 247. We also agree with the Fourth Circuit that Hedgepeth's " arguments lack some clarity[.]" Id. at 245.
Neither of these easements runs along any of the Parker's Landing subdivision streets. However, the 10-foot easement does cross Parker's Landing Drive, the principal street in the subdivision.
On 18 June 2009, Hedgepeth filed the complaint in case 09 CVS 338, Superior Court of Currituck County, against POA and Gladys P. Midgette (Midgette), an individual lot owner in the Parker's Landing Subdivision. On 10 July 2009, Hedgepeth filed an amended complaint naming POA, Midgette, Pamela J. Bell, Forrest E. Midgette and wife Cynthia S. Midgette, Betty P. Lewis, Maxine A. Easton, Carl J. Kreigline and wife Barbara Lento Kreigline, Edward C. Konrad, Jr., and wife Nancy K. Konrad, Dale L. Kreigline and wife Marlena M. Kreigline, Robert W. Donoghue and wife Patricia A. Donoghue, Sandra P. Brinkley, and Sunny's Partnership as defendants. The amended complaint alleged that a portion of Parker's Landing Drive overlaps with the south boundary of the Hedgepeth property, and that the true boundary lines are set forth in a deed recorded in Deed Book 71 at page 449 of the Currituck County Registry. The complaint also referenced the two easements discussed in the federal court order as shown in Map Book 2A, at page 119 of the Currituck County Registry. (See Exhibit A attached to this opinion.) Hedgepeth alleged that Parker's Landing Drive crosses one of the easements (the 10-foot easement) and " burdens and unreasonably interferes with Hedgepeth's said rights of use." The amended complaint sought a declaration from the trial court of the rights of the parties, to quiet title to Hedgepeth's property, and to enjoin defendants from interfering with Hedgepeth's right of access.
On 11 May 2010, Hedgepeth voluntarily dismissed his state law claims against Lewis and Easton, without prejudice. On 9 December 2010, Hedgepeth voluntarily dismissed his claim for boundary overlap, without prejudice. Also on 9 December 2010, Hedgepeth voluntarily dismissed the claims against Midgette, without prejudice.
On 10 May 2011, Hedgepeth filed complaints against Sharon M. Taylor (case 10 CVS 223), and Marian R. Crank, Jr., and wife Jennifer R. Crank (case 10 CVS 225), seeking a declaration of rights to the easements and for an injunction to prohibit defendants from interfering with his access.
On 5 June 2010, Betty Lewis filed a complaint against Hedgepeth (case 10 CVS 275), seeking an injunction prohibiting him from clearing a roadway across her property, and from trespassing on her property, and for a declaration that any easement had been terminated. On 16 May 2011, Hedgepeth filed an answer, denying the allegations of the complaint, and asserting numerous defenses. No counterclaims were filed.
On 11 June 2010, Maxine Easton filed a complaint against Hedgepeth (case 10 CVS 288), seeking the same relief sought by Lewis in her complaint. On 16 May 2011, Hedgepeth filed an answer and counterclaim to Easton's complaint, asserting that the Easton property overlapped the western boundary
of the Hedgepeth property and requesting that the court determine the boundary between the two tracts.
On 23 July 2010, Hedgepeth filed a complaint against Wayne Derrell Crank and wife Sandra R. Crank (case 10 CVS 362), seeking the same relief as in case 10 CVS 225. On 2 February 2011, Hedgepeth filed a second complaint against POA (case 11 CVS 49), seeking the same relief as in the amended complaint in case 09 CVS 338, including a claim seeking resolution of a boundary dispute. On 2 February 2011, Hedgepeth also filed a complaint against Gladys P. Midgette (11 CVS 54), seeking the same relief as in case 11 CVS 49, as to the 10-foot easement, and seeking exclusive rights of access. On 7 February 2011, Hedgepeth filed a complaint against Jody E. Midgette (case 11 CVS 62), seeking the same relief as in case 10 CVS 223, and also seeking a declaration of the location of the southern boundary of the Hedgepeth property.
On 14 June 2011, Hedgepeth filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint and a motion to certify a class, consisting of POA and the individual subdivision lot owners, in case 11 CVS 49. On 17 December 2012, a hearing was held on Hedgepeth's motion to certify a class. On 17 January 2013, the trial court entered an order denying Hedgepeth's motion to certify a class or to declare that POA represented its members. Hedgepeth appealed from ...