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Girani v. Lovorn

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 9, 2018

JOHN GIRANI APPELLANT
v.
JOHN TAYLOR LOVORN APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/01/2017

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: RANKIN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN S. GRANT III

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DAVID RINGER BRENTON MATTHEW CARTER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JAMES WALTER NEWMAN IV

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., WILSON AND TINDELL, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. This appeal involves a dispute between neighbors over the use of a boat ramp. John Girani appeals the Rankin County Chancery Court's judgment finding he was not entitled to any type of easement or license to access the boat ramp, which was largely situated on John Taylor Lovorn's land. On appeal, Girani argues the chancellor erred by finding he possessed neither an easement by estoppel nor an irrevocable license to use the boat ramp. Finding no error, we affirm the chancellor's judgment.

         FACTS

         ¶2. Girani and Lovorn are neighbors in a Rankin County subdivision. The parties own adjoining lots on a lake used for water skiing. In August 1995, Girani acquired by warranty deed two lots from John and Minnie Jo Stewart (collectively, the Stewarts). Lovorn acquired his adjoining lot in August 2006 by warranty deed from Michael Smith (Smith) and his wife, Patricia (collectively, the Smiths).

         ¶3. When the Stewarts and the Smiths still owned the lots, they and two other neighboring families decided to access the lake by deepening a drainage ditch, building a boat ramp, and constructing retaining walls. One retaining wall ran along the Smiths' property while the other ran along the Stewarts' property. The boat ramp itself was located almost entirely on the Smiths' lot, with a small portion extending onto the Stewarts' property. In exchange for sharing the cost of the project, all four families received permission to freely use the boat ramp.

         ¶4. After Girani purchased his lots from the Stewarts, and before Lovorn acquired his lot, Girani, the Smiths, and the two other contributing families performed repairs and renovations to the boat ramp. Girani testified on direct examination that, since purchasing his property, he had contributed around $25, 000 to $30, 000 for the repair and maintenance of the boat ramp and retaining walls. Girani further stated he only made these expenditures because he believed he could use the boat ramp whenever he wished. On cross-examination, though, Girani admitted that his expenditures were actually used to replace and maintain only the retaining wall and deck area on his property.

         ¶5. Girani further testified that, before Lovorn acquired the Smiths' lot, no one had ever barred Girani from accessing the boat ramp. However, after Lovorn acquired his lot, Girani testified that Lovorn parked vehicles in front of the boat ramp and that Lovorn's wife told Girani he would have to obtain permission to use the boat ramp. Following these events, Girani filed a complaint against Lovorn in chancery court. Girani asked the chancellor to find he held an easement by estoppel to the portion of Lovorn's land containing the boat ramp. Alternatively, Girani asked the chancellor to find he held an irrevocable license to use the boat ramp and water channel. In addition, Girani asked the chancellor to find he was entitled to adequate consideration for the support his land provided for the boat ramp and/or channel.

         ¶6. At trial, both Girani and Lovorn testified. Smith also testified about the construction and use of the boat ramp and about selling his land to Lovorn. When Smith conveyed his property to Lovorn, he told Lovorn about the boat-ramp project and identified the contributing families who had permission to use the boat ramp. Smith admitted, however, that neither Girani nor any of the other contributing families had ever requested a written easement from him. Smith also testified that the warranty deed he conveyed to Lovorn contained no easement regarding the boat ramp and that, in fact, no such ...


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