in the Court of Appeals 22 March 2017.
by defendants from orders entered 1 April 2016 by Judge Anna
Wagoner and 26 April 2016 by Judge Robert C. Ervin in Catawba
County Superior Court No. 13 CVS 1152.
Homesley, Gaines & Dudley, LLP, by Christina Clodfelter,
Offices of Matthew K. Rogers, by Matthew K. Rogers, for
appeal originated in a dispute over land on which an
advertising billboard had been built. Douglas and Ginger
Rink, Rink Media, LLC, and The Rink Group, Inc. (collectively
"Defendants") appeal from two orders ruling on
motions for summary judgment.
first order, which was entered on April 1, 2016 by Judge Anna
Wagoner ("April 1 Order"), partially granted and
partially denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
James and Joan Gardner's (collectively
"Plaintiffs") unjust enrichment claim was
dismissed, but Defendants' motion was otherwise denied
because the trial court found genuine issues of material fact
that precluded summary judgment on Plaintiffs' motion to
set aside a lease on the land that is the subject of this
second order, which was entered on April 26, 2016 by Judge
Robert C. Ervin ("April 26 Order"), granted
Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs'
motion to set aside the lease was granted, the lease was
declared void, and Defendants' counterclaims for adverse
possession, abuse of process, and unfair and deceptive trade
practices were dismissed.
reasons set out below, we must vacate the April 26 Order, and
dismiss the remainder of the appeal as interlocutory.
& Procedural Background
and Mark Alexander (collectively "Sellers") jointly
owned 12.7 acres located in Denver, North Carolina (the
"Property"). Charles Alexander partnered with
Douglas Rink to develop and rezone the Property. In November
2002, Sellers and Douglas Rink made plans for Douglas Rink
and his wife, Ginger, to buy the Property.
to his purchase of the land, Douglas Rink made plans to build
an advertising billboard on Sellers' Property. Before
acquiring any ownership interest in the Property, Douglas and
Ginger Rink entered into a ground lease agreement
("Lease") with The Rink Group, Inc., an entity
owned and operated by Douglas and Ginger Rink. The Lease was
recorded on May 14, 2003.
Rink Group, Inc. was eventually dissolved, and Douglas and
Ginger Rink formed Rink Media, LLC to manage and operate the
billboard that had been built on the Property. Douglas and
Ginger Rink did not acquire any ownership interest in the
Property until March 26, 2003, when they purchased the
Property from Sellers in a seller-financed transaction.
and Ginger Rink defaulted on their payments to Sellers. They
therefore conveyed the property back to Sellers by general
warranty deed on February 11, 2004. The deed made no
reference to or reservation for the Lease. The Sellers then
sold the Property to Plaintiffs on October 26, 2004. However,