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Ferguson v. Stokes

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 17, 2014

JERRY W. FERGUSON
v.
ELIZABETH ANNE STOKES, ET AL

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF MIDDLESEX COUNTY. R. Bruce Long, Judge.

Jack R. Wilson, III for appellant.

Carl F. Bowmer for appellees.

OPINION

Page 456

[287 Va. 449] PRESENT: All the Justices.

WILLIAM C. MIMS, JUSTICE.

In this appeal, we consider issues regarding adverse possession and the statute of limitations for ejectment, as well as the interpretation of Code § 28.2-1200.1(B)(2). We also address whether the circuit court erred in directing the appellant to vacate certain property.

I. BACKGROUND AND MATERIAL PROCEEDINGS BELOW

In 1955, the Army Corps of Engineers issued Jerry W. Ferguson (" Ferguson" ) a permit to construct a causeway extending to an island in the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County. In 1977, Joseph and Effie Bozeman (" Bozeman" ) acquired the property adjacent to the island and causeway and all riparian rights appurtenant to the shoreline.

In 1998, Ferguson acquired the island and causeway via quitclaim deed. He knew the Commonwealth owned the bottomlands beneath the island and causeway.[1]

In 2006, Bozeman filed suit seeking an apportionment of her riparian rights and a judgment against Ferguson for interfering with those rights. The suit ended with a settlement agreement in which Ferguson agreed to purchase Bozeman's shoreline property for $350,000. The settlement agreement provided for a mutual release of all claims.

Ferguson later defaulted on his payment for the shoreline property. Bozeman then filed a suit to enforce the settlement agreement. After hearing evidence, the circuit court entered an order (the " 2010 order" ) holding that (1) Bozeman is the owner of the shoreline property; (2) Ferguson owns no shoreline property and has no riparian rights in the area claimed by Bozeman; and (3) the bottomlands under the island and causeway are owned by the Commonwealth.

Page 457

Relying on the 2010 order, Bozeman filed an ejectment action against Ferguson alleging that his oyster house on the island was located within her riparian zone. Ferguson filed a plea in bar of the statute of limitations, which the circuit court dismissed, finding that the statute of limitations defense was precluded by the settlement agreement between the parties.

[287 Va. 450] At trial,[2] Ferguson argued that the ejectment action must fail because, pursuant to Code § 28.2-1200.1(B)(2), he owned title to the bottomlands beneath the island and causeway. Thus, he contended that Plaintiffs had no riparian rights to the island and causeway. Plaintiffs argued that Ferguson could not rely on Code § ...


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