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J.V. v. Stodola

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

June 6, 2018

BLACKWOOD'S ISLAND, J.V.; MICHAEL D. WILKINS; AND MOORE BROADWAY, LLC APPELLANTS
v.
MARK STODOLA, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS; THE CITY OF LITTLE ROCK; BARRY HYDE, COUNTY JUDGE OF PULASKI COUNTY, ARKANSAS; AND THE COUNTY OF PULASKI APPELLEES v.

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NO. 60CV-12-555] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE

          Richard E. Worsham; Stephen E. Whitwell; and Ralph Washington, for appellants.

          Thomas M. Carpenter, Office of the City Attorney, for appellees Mark Stodola, Mayor of the City of Little Rock, and the City of Little Rock.

          Chastity Scifres and Adam Fogleman, for appellee Pulaski County.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE

         Blackwood's Island, J.V., [1] Michael Wilkins, and Moore Broadway, LLC (collectively, the appellants), bring this appeal from an order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court granting summary judgment in favor of appellees, the City of Little Rock and its mayor (collectively, the City), and Pulaski County and its county judge (collectively, the County), based on the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations.[2] We affirm.

         Factual Background

         This case involves ownership of the easternmost part of an island in the Arkansas River where the Two Rivers Park was constructed and is located (hereinafter referred to as the "island" or the "island property"). At some point prior to 1915, the island did not exist. This island is close to the south bank of the Arkansas River.[3] The appellants' claim to the property is through what is referred to as the "Bullock chain of title" and the appellees' claim to the property is through what is referred to as the "Blackwood chain of title."

         Appellants claim ownership of part of the island through the Bullock chain of title generally as follows: Appellants trace their title back through various conveyances and legal descriptions to 1820 by claiming that their chain of title is through Henry Bullock. Both the City and the County acknowledge that Henry Bullock owned certain property in the west half of the fractional Southeast Quarter of Section 15, Township 2 North, Range 13 West;[4] however, the appellees contend that the Bullock property lies on the north side of the Arkansas River and does not include the island property.

         The City claims ownership of the island under a 1975 condemnation decree through the Blackwood chain of title generally as follows: In 1915, the attorney general successfully brought a statutory proceeding to have the State declared the owner of the island property. Shortly thereafter, the State conveyed the island property to J.W. Blackwood. Then in 1974, the City instituted a condemnation action of two parcels: a tract in Section Twenty-two and another tract, which was the island property. In a 1975 decree, the chancery court upheld the condemnation of both tracts including the island property and set the compensation due the owners. The condemnation order recited that the title to said property was divested out of the owners and vested in the City of Little Rock, Arkansas. The compensation was paid into the registry of the court. The condemnation deed was affirmed on appeal. See Sullivan v. City of Little Rock, 260 Ark. N-217 (1976) (unpublished).

         The gist of the appellants' claim, inter alia, is that in the 1975 condemnation proceeding, the City gave notice of the proceeding to only the persons in the Blackwood (appellees') chain of title and that no notice was given to the persons in the Bullock (appellants') chain of title. Hence, the appellants claim that because their predecessors in title were not given notice of the condemnation proceedings in 1975 and were not among those compensated by the City, the 1975 condemnation proceeding is still open and pending.[5]

         On February 2, 2012, appellants filed their complaint seeking to quiet title to the island property or, alternatively, compensation for the taking of their property. Appellants asserted that both the 1915 decree and the 1975 condemnation decree were void because their predecessors in title did not receive proper notice or service. The City and the County answered separately, denying the material allegations and raising the affirmative defense of the statute of limitations.

         Appellants filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asserting that, because there was no publication of notice prior to the entry of the quiet-title decree in 1915 or the condemnation decree entered in 1975, both decrees were void, and those cases were still pending. Appellants contended that, because the cases were still pending, the statutes of limitations could not run.

         The City and the County both responded to appellants' motion. The County responded and filed its own motion for summary judgment, arguing among other things that appellants' claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The City responded that appellants had failed to show that their predecessors in title had any interest in the property or that the property described in appellants' complaint included any part of the island property. The City would later file a separate summary-judgment motion wherein it ...


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