Monday, January 6, 2014

Holmes v. Alabama Title Co. case brief

Holmes v. Alabama Title Co. case brief summary
507 So.2d 922 (1987)

Appellant landowners challenged the order of the Jefferson Circuit Court, Bessemer Division (Alabama), which entered summary judgments rendered in favor of defendant steel, title and title insurance companies, due to the removal of minerals from the landowners' property, resulting in structural damage.

  • In 1943, Woodward Iron Company sold the surface rights of property to Patton, reserving for itself, its successors, assigns, licensees, and contractors the right to mine and remove minerals without liability for damage that may occur to the surface land as a result of their mining  related activities. 
  • The recorded deed stated the covenant ran with the land. 
  • U.S. Steel Corporation took title in 1955 and mined the land from 1968 to 1975. 
  • In 1982 the mine was abandoned and sealed. 
  • Holmes and 128 other landowners (the plaintiffs) purchased the surface plots between 1976 and 1981. 
  • The plaintiffs reported tremors and surface fractures on their land, and the U.S. Department of Interior determined that the ceiling of the mine collapsed, causing subsidence of the surface as well as damage to the land and appurtenant structures. 
  • The plaintiffs’ title insurance policies excluded coverage for all the mineral and mining rights. 
  • The plaintiffs sued U.S. Steel (D) for negligence, wantonness, trespass, and nuisance; and sued Alabama Title Company (D) for fraud, breach of contract, and negligence due to failing to adequately inform the plaintiffs of the significance and effect of the covenant. 
The trial court granted all the defendants summary judgment, holding that the covenant completely immunized them from any action rising from their mining activities. The plaintiffs appealed.

The landowners contended a deed, granting the mineral rights to the land to which they were successors in title, did not bar their actions against the steel company predicated on negligence, wantonness, trespass, and nuisance.


  • The court disagreed, finding that the clause allowed the removal of the minerals without requiring that support for the surface remain. 
  • Even if the landowners could have produced a scintilla of evidence of nuisance or trespass by the steel company or of evidence that it conducted its mining activities in a negligent or willful and wanton fashion, the unambiguous language in the deed effectively barred all such claims. 
  • The landowners argued that the title and title insurance companies should have explained the provision in the original deed, but the court found that the title and title insurance companies were not required to explain the significance and effect of exculpatory covenants and the like discovered in their title searches. 
  • The judgment favoring the landowners, therefore, was affirmed.

The judgment favoring the landowners was affirmed.

Suggested law school study materials

Shop Amazon for the best prices on Law School Course Materials.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Evolution of Legal Marketing: From Billboards to Digital Leads Over the last couple of decades, the face of legal marketing has changed a l...