Landowner Waived Ownership Issue By Failing to Provide Authority and Argument

A landowner waived the issue of whether he owned a watercourse by making only a cursory claim of ownership in his appellate brief, but failing to cite legal authority or make legal arguments to support that claim. Harper v. Coats, No. 1050145 (Ala. Jan. 18, 2008). The Alabama Supreme Court consequently affirmed a summary judgment against him.

The bulk of Harper finds the Supreme Court of Alabama affirming the trial court’s Rule 56 decision that, by recording a subdivision plat, the landowner had dedicated to public use two roads running through the subdivision. A second issue — the one that concerns us here — asked whether the landowner owned a water line running alongside those roads. The circuit court had ruled that the water line was a public utility and, on this point, too, entered summary judgment against the landowner. The landowner appealed.

The state’s high court held that the landowner had waived the water line issue. The point was “mentioned only in passing in the parties’ briefs.” For his part, the landowner simply asserted that, “[C]learly, a question of fact [had] been presented” regarding his ownership of the water line. He offered “no legal authority or argument” to support that claim. The court reminded readers that, “It is not the duty of this Court to make arguments or perform the legal research to supplement an inadequate brief.” Ownership of the water line was thus a question “not properly before [the] Court.” The court affirmed the summary judgment.