PCS Phosphate Company, Inc.
Essie Moore Long, Marcellus Blount, and Bernard Moore, each individually and as a Representative of the Class of All Heirs of Eliza Ann Moore Diamond
Ms. Diamond acquired the Diamond Property in Beaufort County, North Carolina, in 1873 by deed. The two tracts making up the Diamond Property are referred to as Tract 1 (approximately 16.74 acres) and Tract 2 (approximately 6.1 acres). In approximately 1901, Ms. Diamond died without a will. Under the laws of North Carolina, her interest in the Diamond Property passed to her children and, if they had already died, to their children, and so on. Beginning in the early 1960’s, two corporations–N.C. Phosphate Corporation (“NCPC”) and Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. (later Texasgulf Company, both referred to as “Texasgulf”)–began to buy property in the area of the Diamond Property. NCPC and Texasgulf acquired the undivided interest of some, but not all, of the heirs to the Diamond Property. Both of these companies were later acquired by the Plaintiff in this action. In 1964, some of the Diamond Heirs (Clifford Moore and others), filed an action in Beaufort County Superior Court, North Carolina, requesting that the Court order the Diamond Property sold and the proceeds divided among Ms. Diamond’s heirs, NCPC and Texasgulf (the “Partition Suit”).
In order to determine the then-current ownership of the Diamond Property, the Court appointed a “Referee” to hear evidence and determine who all of the Diamond heirs were at that time. As a result, the Referee entered a detailed Report (the “Report,” available at www.whiteandallen.com) in 1968 identifying at that time approximately 100 heirs of Ms. Diamond and determining what each heir’s percentage in each of the two Tracts was at that time. The Referee determined that NCPC (and now, by acquisition, Plaintiff PCS) owned 37.4% of Tract 1 and 2.9% of Tract 2, meaning that the other heirs of Ms. Diamond then owned 62.6% of Tract 1 and 97.1% of Tract 2. However, the Report also noted that Texasgulf (also now owned by PCS) had acquired the interests of some of the heirs, which would reduce the interests owned by the heirs. Because the number of parties to the Partition Suit continued to expand (as parties died and left additional heirs), the Partition Suit became more and more complicated and was ultimately abandoned without any sale being ordered.
As a result of the Partition Suit, the Referee’s Report establishes as a matter of law who the heirs of Ms. Diamond and other owners were as of 1968. Therefore, to be a member of the Class, a person or entity will have to establish that he, she, or it takes their current claimed ownership in the Diamond Property from one of the individuals named in the Report (the “Report Owners”), either by will, intestate inheritance, deed, or some other documented transaction.
PCS filed this Action on May 2, 2014 claiming that it is now the owner of the entire Diamond Property, and asking the Court to declare that it is the sole owner of both Tracts by virtue of a doctrine known as “adverse possession.” Specifically, PCS claims that it and the companies it bought have used the Diamond Property exclusively since at least 1976. During that time, PCS claims that it has paid all property taxes on the Property, has posted the boundaries of the Property, and has used the Property exclusively as its own. During that time, PCS claims that no heir of Ms. Diamond and no other entity has attempted to use the Property or has claimed ownership in the Property.
The Named Defendants are each descendants of Ms. Diamond and claim current ownership interests in one or both Tracts of the Property. Specifically, Ms. Long was determined by the Report to own 3/760ths of Tract One; Mr. Blount’s father (who is deceased) was determined by the Report to own 1/189thof both Tracts; and Mr. Moore’s father (who is deceased) was determined by the Report to own 1/315th of Tract 2.]
Under the proposed Settlement, PCS will pay a total of $160,000, to be distributed as follows: $100,000 (less the costs of Litigation and Notification (“Costs”), as described in more detail in the Settlement Agreement), will be distributed among those members of the Class who come forward and make a claim proving descent from one of the Report Owners – the heirs identified in the Partition Suit Report; distribution would be calculated generally applying the North Carolina rules of inheritance, as described in more detail below; $25,000 will be paid to the North Carolina Community Foundation Fund for use as a college tuition loan fund; $7,500 will be distributed to the Named Defendants ($2,500 each); and $27,500 will be paid to Class Counsel for their services in this Action. The Court will enter a judgment determining that PCS is the sole owner of both Tracts.
Below are a list of documents that have been filed with the Court and are accessible by clicking on the below links.