LINNIE PRICE RUTLEDGE and husband CHARLES RUTLEDGE, Plaintiffs,
LISA VIELE FEHER, MARSHA VIELE, DAVID VIELE JR., and wife RACHEL VIELE, BEAU SKINNER and wife, JOSEFINA SKINNER, BRIDGETT SKINNER OTERO and husband, JEHIELL OTERO and HELEN VIELE PRICE and husband, GEORGE PRICE, LISA A. ADAMS and husband, CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, PRANTAWAN JUSEE, and BOB J. HOWELL, Successor Trustee of the Dwight A Viele, Sr. Revocable Trust U/A/D July 28, 2010, Defendants.
in the Court of Appeals 24 May 2017.
by Defendants David Viele, Jr. and wife, Rachel Viele; Beau
Skinner and wife, Josefina Skinner; and Bridgett Skinner
Otero from judgment entered 21 September 2016 by Judge Alan
Z. Thornburg in Jackson County No. 14 CVS 687 Superior Court.
Law Firm, P.A., by Russell L. McLean, III, for
Taylor, PLLC, by J. Scott Taylor, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.
case involves a general warranty deed conveying a life estate
to the grantors' children and a future interest to
certain of the grantors' grandchildren. One of the
grantors' grandchildren, Linnie Price Rutledge, and her
husband, brought this action, seeking a declaratory judgment
as to their rights and interest in the subject property and
an injunction prohibiting Defendants from transferring any
ownership interest they have in the property.
on the language of the deed at issue, the trial court
concluded that Plaintiff Linnie Price Rutledge and Defendant
Lisa Viele Feher both hold a contingent remainder interest in
the property. Further, the trial court concluded that the
class of grandchildren will not close and cannot be
determined until the death of Helen Viele Price, nor can the
individuals in which the remainder interest vests be
determined until the death of Helen Viele
Price. After careful review, we affirm the trial
Viele and his wife Margaret Viele (collectively, the
"Vieles") owned land in Jackson County (the
"Property"). They had four children together:
Dwight Allen Viele ("Dwight"), Charles E. Viele,
Jr. ("Charles"),  Richard E. Viele
("Richard"), and Helen Viele Price ("Ms.
Price"). The Vieles also had several grandchildren.
Dwight had four children: Dwight Viele, Jr., David Viele,
Sr., Terry Viele Skinner, and Lisa Viele Feher
("Lisa"). Richard had two children: Debra Viele and
Richard Viele, Jr. Ms. Price had one child: Linnie Price
October 1983, the Vieles executed a North Carolina General
Warranty Deed (the "Deed") to the Property in which
they retained a life estate for themselves and conveyed a
life estate to their four children as well as a fee simple
remainder interest to their grandchildren. In pertinent part,
the precise language of the Deed reads:
That [the Vieles] . . . have given, granted, bargained, sold
and conveyed and by these presents do hereby give, grant,
bargain, sell and convey unto [Dwight, Ms. Price, Charles,
and Richard], subject to the exceptions, reservations and
restrictions, if any, and together with any rights-of-way, if
any, hereinafter state, a life estate, said life estate
to continue until the death of the last survivor of the four
above-named children; and upon the death of the last of the
four above-named children, fee simple title is to vest in our
grandchildren, the living issue of the four above-named
children, all of that certain piece, parcel or tract of
land, situate[d], lying and being in Jackson County, North
Carolina, but reserving, however, unto Grantors, a Life
Estate in said lands . . . .
time of execution of the Deed, all seven of the named
children and grandchildren were alive. According to
Appellants' brief, C.E. Viele died in 1987 and Margaret
Viele died in 2002.
and her husband, Charles Rutledge, (collectively,
"Plaintiffs") commenced this action on 24 November
2014, seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.
Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a declaration of the
parties' respective rights and obligations in the
Property pursuant to the Deed, and they contended that
"they are the persons with who[m] title vests upon the
passing of Helen Viele Price." Accordingly, they
requested that the trial court enjoin Defendants from
transferring any ownership rights or interest in the
Property. At the time, Ms. Price was the only living child of
the Vieles, and Linnie and Lisa were their only living
grandchildren. David Viele, Jr., Lisa Viele Adams, Beau
Skinner, and Bridgett Skinner Otero were living
great-grandchildren of the Vieles.
filed an amended complaint on 18 February 2015, adding
several parties not involved in the instant
appeal. In March of 2015, Ms. Price conveyed her
life estate interest to Linnie. On 15 October 2015,
Defendants David Viele, Jr., and his wife, Rachel Viele, Beau
Skinner and his wife, Josefina Skinner, and Bridgett Skinner
Otero (collectively, "Appellants") and husband,
Jehiell Otero, ...