October 20, 2015
OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS.
From Charleston County Mikell R. Scarborough,
IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED
A. Bertele, of Charleston, for Petitioner.
B. Williams and J. Jay Hulst, both of Williams & Hulst,
L.L.C., of Moncks Corner; Gaines W. Smith and Jeffrey C.
Moore, both of Legare, Hare & Smith, of Charleston, all
BEATTY, ACTING CHIEF JUSTICE
property dispute concerning utility easements, we granted
Roosevelt Simmons' petition for a writ of certiorari to
review the Court of Appeals' decision in Simmons v.
Berkeley Electric Cooperative, 404 S.C. 172, 744 S.E.2d
580 (Ct. App. 2013). Simmons asserts the Court of Appeals
erred in affirming the master-in-equity's grant of
summary judgment in favor of St. John's Water Company,
Inc. ("St. John's Water") on the basis that it
had established a prescriptive easement. Simmons further
asserts the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the
master's grant of summary judgment in favor of Berkeley
Electric Cooperative, Inc. ("Berkeley Electric") on
the grounds that it had been granted an express easement and
that it had established a prescriptive easement to maintain
the power lines in their current configuration. We affirm in
part, reverse in part, and remand.
2003, Simmons acquired title to two parcels of land, TMS #
283-00-00-498 ("Tract 498") and TMS # 282-00-00-135
("Tract 135"). Both parcels are undeveloped,
wooded, and located along Kitford Road on Johns Island. The
parcels are separated by an abandoned railroad right-of-way
and were previously part of a larger tract owned by two of
Simmons' predecessors-in-title, Edward Heyward and E.C.
Brown. In 1956, Heyward granted an easement to Berkeley
Electric to construct and maintain transmission lines over
what is now Tract 498 and Tract 135. In 1972, Brown granted
an easement to Berkeley Electric to construct and maintain
distribution lines over Tract 498.
1977, Charleston County issued an encroachment permit
authorizing St. John's Water to install a water main
along Kitford Road pursuant to an accompanying map that
illustrated the water main's approved location. St.
John's Water finished construction on the water main in
1978. In 2005, Simmons discovered a water meter under bushes
on Tract 135. Simmons subsequently contacted St. John's
Water, which informed Simmons that it would not move the
water main because it believed it had an easement giving it
the right to use the property. St. John's Water based its
belief on the encroachment permit and its understanding that
the water main had been in its current location for more than
twenty years. Pursuant to a request by Simmons, St.
John's Water "blue-flagged" the property. The
blue flags showed the water main crossing both Tract 135 and
2008, Simmons commenced this action against Berkeley Electric
and St. John's Water alleging trespass and unjust
enrichment. Specifically, Simmons alleged Berkeley Electric
and St. John's Water trespassed on his property by
constructing, placing, and maintaining unauthorized power and
water lines. In doing so, Simmons claimed Berkeley Electric
and St. John's Water had been "furnished with a
non-gratuitous and valuable benefit without paying for its
reasonable value." Simmons also sought a declaration
that neither utility company had property interests or rights
to his property.
Berkeley Electric and St. John's Water moved for summary
judgment. After presiding over the summary judgment hearings,
the master granted both motions for summary judgment. With
respect to Berkeley Electric, the master determined any
transmission and distribution lines over Simmons'
property were permitted under the 1956 and 1972 easements. To
the extent the lines were not within the scope of the express
easements, the master found Berkeley Electric established a
prescriptive easement to the lines in their current
configuration. As to St. John's Water, the master
determined the encroachment permit served as an express
easement granting St. John's Water the right to use
Simmons' property to construct the water main. To the
extent that the water main was not covered under the express
easement, the master held St. John's Water established a
prescriptive easement to maintain the water main in its
current configuration. Simmons appealed.
Court of Appeals affirmed the master's grant of summary
judgment in favor of Berkeley Electric, finding Berkeley
Electric did not exceed the scope of the express easements.
Simmons, 404 S.C. at 179-80, 744 S.E.2d at 584-85.
In addition, the Court of Appeals affirmed the master's
finding that Berkeley Electric established a prescriptive
easement for the power lines in their current configuration.
Id. at 181-82, 744 S.E.2d at 585-86. As to St.
John's Water, the Court of Appeals affirmed the
master's grant of summary judgment in favor of St.
John's Water on the basis that it established a
prescriptive easement, but reversed the master's finding
that it had an express easement after determining Charleston
County lacked the authority to grant a right to use property
owned by another. Id. at 183-85, 744 S.E.2d at
586-87. The Court of Appeals remanded the action to the
master for a determination of whether there are additional
water lines under Simmons' property. Id. at 185,
744 S.E.2d at 587. We granted Simmons' petition for a
writ of certiorari following the Court of Appeals' denial
of his petition for rehearing.
Standard of Review
reviewing the grant of a summary judgment motion, this Court
applies the same standard that governs the trial court under
Rule 56(c), SCRCP, which provides that summary judgment is
proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fleming v. Rose, 350 S.C. 488, 493, 567 S.E.2d
857, 860 (2002); Rule 56(c), SCRCP. "When determining if
any triable issues of fact exist, the evidence and all
reasonable inferences must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party." Fleming,
350 S.C. at 493-94, 567 S.E.2d at 860.