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Gooldy v. The Storage Center-Platt Springs, LLC

Supreme Court of South Carolina

March 14, 2018

David R. Gooldy, Petitioner,
v.
The Storage Center-Platt Springs, LLC, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-000588

          Heard November 14, 2017

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         Appeal from Lexington County James O. Spence, Master-in-Equity

          James Randall Davis, of Davis Frawley Anderson McCauley Ayer Fisher & Smith, LLC, of Lexington, for Petitioner.

          Bess Jones DuRant and Robert E. Stepp, both of Sowell Gray Robinson Stepp & Laffitte, LLC, of Columbia, for Respondent.

          HEARN JUSTICE

         In this case we decide whether Petitioner David Gooldy is entitled to an implied easement where his deed incorporated by reference a plat that indicated a road, marked "50' Road, " bordered the adjoining property owned by Respondent Storage Center-Platt Springs, LLC (Storage Center). The master-inequity held Gooldy was entitled to the presumption of an implied easement, which the Storage Center failed to rebut, but the court of appeals reversed, holding the presumption did not apply and that no evidence supported the master's order. We now reverse and reinstate the master's order.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Gooldy owns a 0.68 acre parcel of land that fronts S.C. Highway 6 in Lexington County. The adjoining 7.35 acre lot, owned by the Storage Center, borders Gooldy's property on three sides in the shape of a horseshoe. Gooldy's deed referenced a plat prepared for James Loflin, Gooldy's predecessor in title. That plat (Loflin Plat) included the inscription "50' Road" along the southern boundary of Gooldy's property. There is no dispute the Loflin Plat is within the Storage Center's chain of title. After Gooldy acquired the property in 2002, he used the road[1] to access the property and to allow customers of his chiropractor business to do so. The Storage Center purchased its parcel five years later, and thereafter, its representatives informed Gooldy that he could no longer use the road.

         Although the parties acquired their respective properties in the early 2000s, our focus must begin two decades prior thereto when Congaree Associates (Congaree) owned 500 acres of land in Lexington County, part of which encompassed the parcels at issue today. In the early 1980s, Congaree pursued a residential development project to convert the land into a subdivision and hired Robert Collingwood to survey and create plats for the proposed subdivision. In August of 1983, Collingwood surveyed the property and created a plat containing thirteen subdivided lots. Congaree labeled the first phase of the development project Westchester Phase I and duly recorded the plat. The northernmost lot within the proposed subdivision, Lot 13, bordered the parcel of land presently owned by Gooldy. The plat was silent as to whether any road crossed Lot 13.

         Six months later, in January of 1984, Collingwood prepared a survey for the second phase of the subdivision plan, denominated Westchester Phase II, and the plat included the disputed road, marked "50' Road." Congaree submitted the plat to the Lexington County Planning Commission (Planning Commission) for approval, and in July of 1985, Westchester Phase II was conditionally approved. The Planning Commission withheld final approval until a retention pond and drainage ditches were designed and added to the plat. At some point after the conditional approval for Westchester Phase II, Congaree abandoned its plan to develop the subdivision due to the cost to comply with the Planning Commission's requirements for final approval.

         In December of 1985, Collingwood prepared the Loflin Plat for James Loflin, who sought to purchase a lot from Congaree. The parcel abutted the proposed subdivision, and Collingwood included the disputed road in the Loflin Plat. Collingwood subsequently revised the plat twice, in April and August of 1986, but each revision identified the road.

         In September of 1986, Congaree conveyed 0.68 acres to Loflin by a deed that incorporated the Loflin Plat. In relevant part, the deed stated,

All that certain piece, parcel, or lot of land, with improvements thereon, if any, situate, lying and being on the western side of S.C. Highway No. 6, approximately 580 feet south of the intersection of Platt Springs Road and S.C. Highway No. 6, near the Town of Lexington, in the County of Lexington, State of South Carolina, and being shown and designated on a plat prepared for James T. Loflin by Robert E. Collingwood, Jr., Reg. Surveyor, dated December 10, 1985, revised August 12, 1986, and recorded in the ...

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