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Summary Judgment Affirmed by Alabama Supreme Court

March 2014

The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a summary judgment the firm obtained for its client Harvey Robbins in a substantial property dispute over lake front property on Wilson Lake. Mr. Robbins purchased for $2.5 million approximately 50 acres of lake front property on Wilson Lake from William H. Martin, III and other related parties controlled by Martin's relatives.  The property was advertised and sold as lake front property suitable for a substantial waterfront development. After the closing, the Martin Defendants purported to convey the land under the lake in front of the Robbins property to another Martin relative, Lucinda Schreeder. Schreeder contended Mr. Robbins could not develop the property with piers and docks absent her permission.  The effect of this contention, if successful, would render extremely valuable lake front land worth significantly less by about $1.6 million.  In the meantime, development of the property was thwarted. Schreeder and the Martin Defendants contended ownership of the land under the lake was vested in them because title rested with some ancestors who acquired fee simply title after the lake was developed by TVA. Back in 1917, when the U.S government planned Wilson Dam, the government obtained flowage easements and theoretically left fee simple title in the land under the water with the original owners. The trial court ruled for Mr. Robbins based upon the presumed intent doctrine.  That doctrine provides that whenever a conveyance along the water is made, it is presumed that the grantor of the deed intended to convey any land owned under the water unless the deed clearly and unmistakably reserved title to that property. During the pendency of the appeal, Mr. Robbins passed away. We deeply regret that, but we are thankful that he survived to see the trial court rule in his favor. The case will now proceed to trial to assess damages for Mr. Robbins' estate.

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