County, state file to dismiss U.S. 231 bridge lawsuit

Attorneys for Blount County filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed in April by plaintiffs Eldridge and Susan Bryan contesting the county and/or state’s possession of a right-of-way originally granted in 1940 for the construction of U. S. 231 and the U.S. 231 bridge across the Locust Fork River north of Cleveland. A date of July 22, 2015, at 9 a.m. has been set for hearing in Blount County Circuit Court.

The county’s motion claims the action should be dismissed because water, gas, and communications utility companies should have been named as indispensible parties to the suit since their rights and interests could be adversely affected by a ruling against the county. Those utility companies maintain facilities either attached to the bridge or traversing the right-of-way.

The county requests the court to dismiss the action for plaintiffs failure to join all necessary parties, or, alternatively, to require plaintiffs to join all parties necessary to determine whether the right-of-way is public or private.

The same plaintiffs also filed a separate but related suit against John R. Cooper in his capacity as director of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). In his motion, Cooper also requests that the action be dismissed, basing the request predominantly on the claim that the State of Alabama is constitutionally immune from suit and that the immunity of the state extends to state officers sued in their official capacities when the action is, in effect, one against the state.

The right-of-way, granted originally to the state was released in 2014 by quitclaim deed to Blount County, which intends to develop the bridge, now abandoned as a highway, as a tourist destination including walking trail, river observation and information feature, and river access point.

Plaintiffs seek to have the right-of-way, no longer used for the purpose for which it was granted, extinguished and the property returned to them.