CARSON D. BARNES and wife, ROMELDA E. BARNES, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
JUDITH SCULL and husband, DAVID SCULL; BENJAMIN E. THOMPSON, JR. and wife, SANDRA P. THOMPSON; ROGER THOMPSON BASS and wife, PHYLLIS KELLAR BASS; MARY LYNN THOMPSON WHITLEY and husband, WILLIAM G. WHITLEY, III; ROBIN BESS PRIDGEN MERCER, Unmarried; JONATHAN PRIDGEN and wife, SHARON PRIDGEN; and any Unknown Heirs of W. ROBIN PRIDGEN, Deceased, Defendants-Appellees
Heard in the Court of Appeals 26 August 2014.
Appeal by Plaintiffs from judgment entered 17
October 2013 by Judge Walter H. Godwin, Jr. in Superior Court, Wilson County, No. 12 CVS 1086.
Narron & Holford, P.A., by I. Joe Ivey, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.
Broughton Wilkins Sugg & Thompson, PLLC, by Benjamin E. Thompson, III and Blair K. Beddow, for Defendants-Appellees Scull, Thompson, Bass and Whitley.
Farris & Farris, P.A., by Robert A. Farris, Jr. and Rhyan A. Breen; and King & King, LLP, by W. Lewis King, for Defendants-Appellees Mercer and Pridgen.
McGEE, Chief Judge. Judges BRYANT and STROUD concur.
McGEE, Chief Judge.
John S. Thompson (" Testator" ) executed his will in 1944. Testator also executed codicils that replaced certain terms of his will. The only codicil relevant to this appeal is the third codicil that was executed in 1955 (along with Testator's will, " the will" ). Pursuant to the will, Testator devised to his wife, Maude Thompson (" Maude" ), a life estate in real property consisting of 146 acres (" the property" ). Upon the death of Maude or Testator, whichever death occurred last, the property was to be placed in a trust (" the trust" ). The proceeds of the trust were to provide support to one of Testator's sons, Hubert E. Thompson (" Hubert" ), for Hubert's life. According to the will, upon Hubert's death, the property would go to Hubert's lineal descendants, if any. If Hubert died without lineal descendants, the property was to " revert to [Testator's] heirs."
Testator died in 1960, and was survived by Maude and six children: Hubert, W.C. Thompson (" W.C." ), Annie T. Weigel (" Annie" ), B.E. Thompson (" B.E." ), J.W. Thompson (" J.W." ), and James G. Thompson (" James" ). Maude died in 1969, at which time the trust went into effect, with the property as the corpus, for the benefit of Hubert. Testator's descendants relevant to the resolution of this appeal are Hubert and the descendants of James.
James died in 1972. James was survived by his son, James G. Thompson, Jr. (" James Jr." ) and his daughter, Marjorie T. Pridgen (" Marjorie" ). James died testate, and left whatever interest he had in the property to Marjorie and her husband, W. Robin Pridgen (" Robin" ), a one-half interest to each. James did not leave any interest he had in the property to James Jr. James Jr. died on 24 April 1980, approximately three months before Hubert, who died on 26 July 1980. James Jr. was survived by three sons: John S. Thompson (" John" ), James Guy Thompson, III (" James III" ), and Gregory A. Thompson (" Gregory" ). James III purported to convey his interest in the property to Gregory by deed executed 30 January 1998. John purported to convey his interest in the property to Carson B. Barnes (together with his wife, Romelda E. Barnes, " Plaintiffs" ) by deed executed 2 May 2000. Gregory purported to convey his interest in the property to Carson B. Barnes by deed executed 10 May 2000.
Plaintiffs initiated this action by complaint filed 26 June 2012, and requested a declaratory judgment establishing the legitimacy of their purported interest in the property. Defendants Robin Bess Pridgen Mercer, Jonathan Pridgen and Sharon Pridgen filed
their answer on 27 August 2012, contending that Plaintiffs had " received deeds from persons who had no interest in the property, [have] no claim whatsoever to any of the property and [have] no standing to bring this action." They requested that the trial court " declare the ownership of the subject property" to reflect the validity of that portion of James' will that conveyed ten percent interest in the property to Marjorie and ten percent interest to Robin, with no interest in the property having gone to James Jr. Defendants Judith Scull, David Scull, Benjamin E. Thompson Jr., Sandra P. Thompson, Roger Thompson Bass and Phyllis Kellar Bass (together with Robin Bess Pridgen Mercer, Jonathan Pridgen and Sharon Pridgen, " Defendants" ) answered Plaintiffs' complaint on 10 September 2012. These Defendants also contended that the purported deeds from John and Gregory conveyed nothing to Plaintiffs, and requested that Plaintiffs " have and recover nothing of these answering [D]efendants[.]"
Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on 16 September 2013. Defendants Robin Bess Pridgen Mercer, Jonathan Pridgen and Sharon Pridgen moved for summary judgment on 19 September 2013. The trial court heard this matter 30 September 2013, and ruled that Plaintiffs had no ownership interest in and to the subject property, denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and granted the motion for summary ...