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Sandfoss v. Village of Morrow

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren

December 30, 2019

DANIEL SANDFOSS, et al., Appellants,
v.
VILLAGE OF MORROW, OHIO, Appellee.

          CIVIL APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 16CV88849

          Dearie, Fischer & Mathews, LLC, John A. Fischer, for appellants.

          Surdyk, Dowd & Turner Co., LPA, Jeffrey C. Turner, Dawn M. Frick, for appellees.

          OPINION

          HENDRICKSON, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiffs, Daniel Sandfoss, Mary Rutterer, Barbara Reimer, James Cook, and Aleta Cook (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), appeal from a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, which granted summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, the village of Morrow, Ohio ("Morrow"). For the reasons discussed below, this court affirms the trial court decision.

         {¶ 2} In July 2016, Plaintiffs sued defendant Clinton County Trails Coalition ("Coalition"). The complaint asserted a claim to quiet title to certain real property owned by Coalition ("subject property"). Plaintiffs claimed the subject property was part of an old railway easement that traversed their respective properties. Plaintiffs further alleged that Coalition had received its interest in the subject property by quitclaim deed from a railroad company. That deed had purported to transfer the former railroad corridor to Coalition in fee simple. Plaintiffs alleged that, at best, the railroad company had transferred an easement, which easement was earlier abandoned by the railroad company.

         {¶ 3} Plaintiffs asked the court to terminate the easement and revert title of the subject property to them. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint adding Morrow as a party defendant after Coalition moved to dismiss on the basis that it had sold the subject property to Morrow. The court thereafter dismissed Coalition from the case.

         {¶ 4} In answering the complaint, Morrow pled that it held the subject property in fee simple. After both sides completed discovery, the parties filed competing motions for summary judgment.

         {¶ 5} The summary judgment evidence indicated that Coalition purchased the subject property in 1993 from Penn Central Corporation ("Penn"). The subject property was part of a former railway corridor. Coalition paid Penn $47, 000 and Penn provided Coalition with a quitclaim deed, which transferred a fee simple interest. The deed or other records that would demonstrate how Penn acquired its interest in the railway apparently could not be located and therefore were not presented in evidence.

         {¶ 6} Coalition purchased the land with the intent of making it a public trail but ultimately did not build the trail for various reasons. Coalition then sold the tract to Morrow. In the course of that transaction, Morrow received an attorney's certificate of title, which certified that "the fee simple title to said premises is vested in [Coalition]* * *" The attorney further certified that the title was marketable and free from encumbrances.

         {¶ 7} The court issued its decision denying Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. With respect to the Sandfoss/Rutterer and Cook properties, the court found that the subject property did not enter those properties and those plaintiffs had not established any other ownership interest in the subject property. [1] The court found that the evidence indicated that the subject property ran through the Reimer property, but that Reimer also had failed to establish that she held any title to the subject property. Additionally, the court found that Plaintiffs had not shown that Penn held the subject property as an easement and concluded that there were no genuine issues of fact for trial. Accordingly, the court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. On the same basis, the court granted Morrow's motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' claims.

         {¶ 8} Plaintiffs appeal, raising two assignments of error.

         {¶ 9} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 10} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY GRANTING MORROW'S ...


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