March 29, 2001

Court Closes County Road As Part Of Lawsuit Settlement

A lawsuit against Scotland County officially was closed in mid-March after nearly two years on the dockets.

Following testimony by witnesses the Scotland County Commission agreed to settle the case brought by Terry E. Smith, Sr. regarding a road project on the Smith's family farm near Granger.

Smith, the trustee of the Terry E. Smith and Linda L. Smith Family Trust, had brought suit against the Scotland County Commission - Mike Stephenson, Roger Riebel, Dean Childress, and John Wheeler of the Scotland County Road and Bridge Department.

In July and August of 1997 the Scotland County road crew began work on extending a legally open roadway to allow a landowner access to a newly purchased property. The County Commission proceeded with the project based on the belief the work was being done on an old roadbed previously maintained by the county.

During the January 25 trial, the plaintiff's attorney called numerous witnesses that indicated the old road had not been used over the past five years. The county had indicated it believed the old roadway had been used by utility workers to access an electric line near the roadway. However workers from the company testified they had walked on the opposite side of a ditch from the roadway, and in fact had not used it to access the area.

Based on this testimony the county's attorney recommended the settlement.

According to the legal finding which was officially recorded March 13 in the Scotland County Circuit Clerk and Recorders Office, the court found the road had been subject to nonuse by the public for at least five years prior to the 1997 construction project. Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 228.190, any roadway that is not used by the public for at least five years is deemed abandoned.

The court ruled that by agreement of both parties, the road had been abandoned and thus reverted to the landowner in title. Based on that agreement the defendant, Scotland County, will vacate the private property and desist on any further efforts to construct or maintain the former roadway.

As part of the agreement, the plaintiff agreed to dismiss Count II of the lawsuit, which had been seeking damages against the county to replace a field levy that had been destroyed by the roadwork.

The case was heard by Judge Russell Steele.

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