CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court rightfully denied a motion for consolidation in a case involving two siblings, their uncle and property.
The Supreme Court ruled the circuit court was well within its “wide discretionary power” to deny the petitioners’ motion for consolidation.
"The circuit court determined that the issues in petitioners’ declaratory judgment action against CSX were a 'wholly separate issue as to partition of lands already decided' rendering consolidation improper," the Feb. 11 memorandum decision obtained by The West Virginia Record stated. "Accordingly, as petitioners’ made no showing of prejudice on the part of the circuit court and offered no additional arguments in support of their position, we find no abuse of discretion in the court’s denial of petitioners’ motion to consolidate."
William Douglas Brown and Brenda Harriet Brown appealed a Mason Circuit Court Jan. 10, 2018, order denying their motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure and motion to consolidate.
Smith McCausland, the maternal uncle of the petitioners, who are siblings, was the respondent in the matter.
In July 2011, McCausland filed an action in Mason Circuit Court against the petitioners requesting partition-in-kind of real property jointly owned by them.
The circuit court appointed commissioners to complete an investigation of the requested partition and the commissioners held a hearing, heard evidence and, ultimately, issued a report of their findings. The petitioners objected to the commissioners’ findings.
The circuit court entered an order on Aug. 20, 2014, affirming the commissioners’ findings in their entirety. The petitioners then appealed the order. The petitioners then sought a Writ of Certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied by order entered Jan. 16, 2016.
The petitioners then attempted to negotiate with a third party, CSX, to obtain access to the portion of petitioners’ property that petitioners contend was restricted by the partition. On Feb. 26, 2016, the petitioners filed a declaratory judgment action against CSX in Mason Circuit Court. CSX removed the action to federal court, where it was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
On April 18, 2017, the petitioners re-filed their declaratory judgment action against CSX in Mason Circuit Court. The siblings then filed a motion in the underlying partition action for relief from the circuit court’s Aug. 20, 2014, order, pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, and filed a motion to consolidate the declaratory judgment action with the partition action.
The circuit court specifically found that CSX did not, at any time relevant hereto, have an ownership interest in the property that was the subject of the underlying partition action and, at no time, was a property right of CSX ever partitioned.
"Based upon these reasoned findings and the limited circumstances of this case, we find that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in determining that CSX was not an indispensable party to the underlying partition action and that petitioners were not entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)," the decision states.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case number: 18-0110