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Gardner v. Rink

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

September 5, 2017

JAMES GARDNER and JOAN GARDNER, Plaintiffs,
v.
DOUGLAS W. RINK, GINGER RINK, RINK MEDIA, LLC, and THE RINK GROUP, INC., Defendants.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 March 2017.

         Appeal 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, for plaintiffs-appellees.

          Law Offices of Matthew K. Rogers, by Matthew K. Rogers, for defendants-appellants.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         This 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.

         The 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 dispute.

         The 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.

         For the reasons set out below, we must vacate the April 26 Order, and dismiss the remainder of the appeal as interlocutory.

         Factual & Procedural Background

         Charles 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.

         Prior 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.

         The 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.

         Douglas 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, Rink ...


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