OF JUDGMENT: 04/15/2015
FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. HENRY
L. LACKEY TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: C. VICTOR WELSH III.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: F. HALL BAILEY HEATHER MARIE ABY OWEN
LEE, C.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.
This is a dispute over a strip of land bordering residential
property owned by the litigants, who are neighbors. Both
sides claim record title to the property deriving from
Cynthia and M.L. Culley. At issue on appeal is the Stephen
and Rowena Carmody's claim, which originates from a deed
to J.E. Fowler in 1969. The chancery court found that the
deed did not convey the disputed property, and thus that the
Carmodys had no claim to it. The court then granted a partial
summary judgment to Suzannah McGowan, which was certified as
a final judgment under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure
54(b). We agree with the chancery court that the deed was
unambiguous and that it did not convey the subject property,
and so we affirm.
A court interpreting a deed follows the same process as it
does with contracts. Conservatorship of Estate of Moor ex
rel. Moor v. State, 46 So.3d 849, 852 (¶12) (Miss.
Ct. App. 2010). We begin by looking at the language of the
instrument itself as contained within its "four
corners." Pursue Energy Corp. v. Perkins, 558
So.2d 349, 352 (Miss. 1990). "When an instrument's
substance is determined to be clear or unambiguous, the
parties' intent must be effectuated." Id.
"If the reviewing [c]ourt finds the terms of the
contract to be ambiguous or subject to more than one
interpretation, the case must be submitted to the trier of
fact, and summary judgment is not appropriate."
Epperson v. SOUTHBank, 93 So.3d 10, 17 (¶20)
The deed at issue states that the Culleys "do hereby
sell, convey and warrant unto J. E. Fowler the following
described land and property lying and being situated in the
First Judicial District of Hinds County, State of
Mississippi, and being more particularly described as follows
. . . ." This is followed by a single-spaced, indented
description of a 26.7-acre tract, which concludes with the
LESS AND EXCEPT therefrom that portion of the above described
property which is contained in Riverwood Drive and which is
described in easement executed this date by grantors herein
in favor of the City of Jackson, Mississippi.
undisputed that this refers to the property now in dispute.
The Carmodys point to what immediately follows the
above-quoted language, where the deed is no longer indented
and returns to double-spaced lines, and recites that:
The warranty of this conveyance is subject to an easement for
street purposes, executed this date herein, in favor of the
City of Jackson, Mississippi, which easement is for an
extension of Riverwood Drive.
other preexisting easements are then excepted from the
warranty, and the deed concludes normally ...