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Jenkins v. Chicago Pacific Corp.

Supreme Court of Kansas

October 27, 2017

Sharron Jenkins, Appellant,
v.
Chicago Pacific Corporation, et al., Appellees.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. A district court's grant of summary judgment on fewer than all claims or against fewer than all parties is not a final judgment for appeal purposes under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-2102 absent certification under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-254(b).

         2. A certification of "no just reason for delay" under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-254(b) may be made after summary judgment is granted to fewer than all parties or on fewer than all claims.

         3. A notice of appeal of a district court's grant of summary judgment on fewer than all claims or against fewer than all parties filed before that order is certified under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-254(b) is premature but will be deemed effective if the K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-254(b) certification by the district court occurs before the appeal is dismissed.

         4. When a railroad company acquires a strip of land for a right of way it generally takes only an easement. This is the rule whether the strip is acquired by condemnation or deed. When the railroad abandons that right of way, the estate reverts to the original landowners.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed February 5, 2016. Appeal from Jackson District Court; Micheal A. Ireland, judge. Opinion filed October 27, 2017. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Nicholas David, of The David Law Office LLC, of Topeka, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.

          Michael S. Heptig, of Sloan, Eisenbarth, Glassman, McEntire & Jarboe, L.L.C., of Topeka, argued the cause and Danielle N. Davey, of the same firm, was on the brief for appellee Eben Crosby.

          Alexandria S. Morrissey, of Holton, was on the brief for appellee Jackson County.

          J. Richard Lake, of Holton, was on the brief for appellee Willis McGee.

          OPINION

          BILES, J.

         Sharron Jenkins sues to quiet title to real property located in Holton through which a now-abandoned railway once ran. She traces her ownership claim to a deed conveying those lots to a railroad company in 1886. The contested property was described in that deed as part of a strip of land running through the grantors' property along the planned railroad's centerline. After the railroad abandoned the railway, it quitclaimed its interest in the strip to a company that subsequently quitclaimed its interest to Jenkins. The dispute is whether the 1886 deed expressly or impliedly conveyed the property for use as a right of way.

         The district court entered summary judgment against Jenkins. It held the 1886 deed conveyed the strip for use as a right of way and therefore granted only an easement that reverted to the original landowners when the railroad abandoned the railway. Accordingly, the district court ruled when the railroad quitclaimed its interest in the strip to the company from which Jenkins acquired her interest, "the railroad deeded land it was not legally capable of deeding." The Court of Appeals affirmed. Jenkins v. Chicago Pacific Corp., No. 113, 104, 2016 WL 463789 (Kan. App. 2016) (unpublished opinion). We agree.

         We hold that the language in the 1886 deed demonstrates the land was conveyed to the railroad for use as a right of way. Therefore, under our longstanding caselaw, the railroad acquired only an easement, which reverted to the landowners when the railroad abandoned the right of way. As the district court correctly held, the entity that deeded the lots to Jenkins based on a conveyance from the railroad had no estate to transfer to her. See Abercrombie v. Simmons, 71 Kan. 538, 546, 81 P. 208 (1905) ("Whatever its name, the interest was taken for use as a right of way, it was limited to that use, and must revert when the use is abandoned.").

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The material facts are uncontroverted. In 1886, five individuals executed a single deed "grant[ing], bargain[ing] sell[ing] and convey[ing] [real estate] . . . to the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway Company." Thereafter, a railway was operated on the property. At some point, the railway was abandoned. In 1985, the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway Company's successor in interest quitclaimed its interests in the property to Dirt & Gravel, Inc. Jenkins acquired her claimed interest through a 1994 quitclaim deed from Dirt & Gravel. The legal description of the property as stated in her 1994 deed was "[a]ll that portion of the abandoned Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad right of way" in the lots located in Holton.

         In 2010, Jenkins sued to quiet adverse claims against her title, seeking a determination that she was legally vested with fee simple ownership. She advanced two legal theories: the quitclaim deed conveyed fee title to her, or that she acquired title through adverse possession. Four defendants answered ...


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