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Thomas v. Carmeuse Lime & Stone, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 30, 2017

JUSTIN D. THOMAS and IRENE S. THOMAS, Plaintiffs/Counterdefendants,
CARMEUSE LIME & STONE, INC., and O-N MINERALS CHEMSTONE COMPANY, Defendants/Crossclaim Defendants,
BARBARA SILVIA HELMS, Intervenor Defendant/ Counterclaimant/Crossclaimant.


          Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge

          This case concerns a dispute between plaintiffs Justin D. Thomas and Irene S. Thomas (together, the "Thomases") and defendants Carmeuse Lime & Stone, Inc. and O-N Minerals (collectively, "Carmeuse") regarding the parties' respective rights to the property at issue (the "Property"). The matter is presently before the court on defendants' second motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

         Relevant Factual Background

          The court has expounded on the facts of the instant matter at length in its previous memorandum opinion. See Thomas v. Carmeuse Lime & Stone, Inc., 86 F.Supp.3d 490, 492-95 (W.D. Va. 2015). The Property is part of a 200-acre parcel that was owned by G.B.W. Reynolds ("Reynolds") in the mid-eighteenth century. Reynolds conveyed ownership of the limestone and other minerals on his property to John S. Wilson ("Wilson") in 1849 (the "1849 Deed"). This conveyance created two estates: a mineral estate owned by Wilson and a surface estate owned by Reynolds. The 1849 Deed grants a number of rights related to quarrying and reserves certain protections. Specifically, the deed conveys

[A]ll the stone or rock of every kind, and particularly all the limestone, or quarries of limestone or other kinds of stone, in and upon any and every portion of said Reynolds' own land which was owned by him at the date of said agreement.

Docket No. 1-1. The deed also grants to the owner of the mineral estate certain rights of access over the surface estate (the "Access Provision"). The Access Provision provides

[T]he privilege to said [grantee], his heirs or assigns, of free ingress, egress, and regress, at all times, to enter and quarry, and take the same away or to construct kilns and burn the same into lime, on the said Reynolds' own land, as owned by him at the date of said agreement.

Id. Almost immediately thereafter, the deed states, "But this portion of the contract and conveyance is subject to the following limitations or qualifications." Id. The 1849 Deed then lists several "limitations." Most notably for the instant matter, the 1849 Deed contains the following restriction (the "Yard Restriction"):

Reynolds did by [] agreement, sell . . . under certain qualifications, and subject to certain privileges therein expressed, all the stone and rock upon every portion of his own land ... together with certain rights of way over his the said Reynolds' own land .... [I]t is also agreed and understood between the parties, that the said Wilson, his heirs or assigns, is not to blast, or quarry, or take away, any stone within the inclosure of the yard attached to the said Reynolds' present dwelling house; this provision being inserted to protect the family of the said Reynolds and of his heirs or assigns, or other persons who may be in the occupancy of the house[, ] from annoyance.


          On the northwestern portion of the Property is an old stone house, which, according to one of plaintiffs' experts, "is an excellent, and rare, example of 18th century colonial American architecture." Report of Daniel B. Thorp, Docket. No. 168-3 at 2. Although plaintiffs purchased the surface estate in 2002, they have never lived in the house, no one currently resides in the house, and it has apparently not been occupied since 1999. There is no plumbing or sewage, only an outhouse. Although the house was wired for electricity when the Thomases purchased it, the house does not currently have electricity. Additionally, under current zoning regulations, the house cannot be occupied. Dep. of Justin Thomas at 5, 29-30, 41, 46, 146.

         The Thomases' chain of title includes a deed from 1854 in which Reynolds granted his surface estate to his wife. This deed describes the land granted as "two hundred acres of the tract of land, on which [Reynolds] now reside[s], with the mansion house." Supplemental Report of Daniel B. Thorp, Docket No. 168-4 at 1. An 1876 court-ordered surveyor's plat describes the land as that part "laid off. . . to the widow [of Reynolds]." Docket No. 168-8. The surveyor's plat also states that the land conveyed "includes the stone house." Id.

         In 1864, the Confederate Engineering Bureau commissioned a map of Botetourt County (the "Confederate Map"). The map denotes with a square marking several structures on the Property. See Docket No. 168-12. There is one square that is labeled "cabin" and is at the location of the present-day stone house. A second square is on the eastern side of Rocky Point Road. Id. On the map's legend, the squares used to mark these structures are defined as "dwellings." Id.

         Procedural History

         The Thomases filed the instant action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief in an effort to prevent Carmeuse from core drilling and extracting limestone from the Property, which is adjacent to a quarry owned by Carmeuse.[1] On January 31, 2014, Thomas M. Helms, Sr. was granted leave to intervene, and he subsequently asserted both a counterclaim against plaintiffs and a crossclaim against Carmeuse.[2] All parties moved for summary judgment or partial summary judgment.

         At that time, there were four main disputes. First, the parties disputed the meaning and consequences of the Yard Restriction. Second, the parties disputed who owns the mineral estate. Carmeuse and Helms believed that certain twentieth-century conveyances granted them ownership of the entire underlying mineral estate. The Thomases asserted that the twentieth century deeds reverted a portion of the mineral estate back to the original owner, Reynolds, and therefore, by the chain of title, to the Thomases. Third, Carmeuse and Helms disputed how much of the underlying ...

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