Tenn. Code Ann. § 54-14-111(1998) specifically provides that the jury of view may locate an easement at the place set out in the petition or at any other place. The relevant statutory language must be strictly construed, and the jury must therefore be allowed to consider all of the surrounding property. However, only those who are actually made parties may have their property interests affected by the condemnation proceedings. Consequently, should the report from the jury of view locate the easement on the land of a non-party, the report must be set aside and another jury of view appointed for reconsideration of the petition after that landowner and all other interested parties have been joined; only then may the petitioner be granted relief. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 54-14-112, 54-14-101(a)(1)(Supp. 2000). These statutes do not say that a proceeding will be void if the property owners are not made parties; what the language means is that one cannot acquire rights through and over these properties unless these parties are made parties to the action.
The alleged landlocked property owner alleged his property was landlocked. He contended a particular parcel of land was the most adequate and convenient location for an easement from his property to a public road. Accordingly, he requested the trial court grant condemnation of that land, which was owned by the adjacent landowners. However, the trial court found he enjoyed an easement by implication across a different adjacent property. The appellate court concluded that the evidence preponderated against the trial court’s finding of an easement. It found the evidence established that his property was landlocked. It also found the easement should be located across the adjacent landowners’ property as that property was the most adequate, convenient, and economical place for it.
Did the appellate court err in deciding where the easement should be placed without a jury view’s report?
The state supreme court found the appellate court erred in a jury view’s report as required by the condemnation statute. It also found that the alleged landlocked property owner should be allowed a chance to add any parties necessary to decide the matter. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed on its holding that the easement had to be located on the adjacent landowner’s property. However, its judgment was affirmed to the extent that it held the failure to join all adjoining property owners as defendants was not fatal to the alleged landlocked property owner should be allowed a chance to add any parties necessary to decide the matter.