Main Body

Easements

5. Easements

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO SERVITUDES

 

 

 

Our discussion of future interests introduced us to the ways that people can share property over time and the problems that tend to arise when they do so. The materials on co-ownership showed ways that people can actually own property together at the same time. We now come to another kind of shared, concurrent interest in land.

 

Servitudes are interests in the lands of others that confer the power to use another’s land or to control what a landowner does with his land. Though courts and commentators have used a variety of words and modifiers to describe servitudes, they can be boiled down to two basic types: easements and covenants. At bottom, these are just contracts. One party promises to allow access to her land or that she will do or not do something on her own land, and the other party promises something in return.

 

What distinguishes easements and covenants from other contracts is that they can be made to bind not just the parties who agree to them but also the people who later acquire the lands these agreements burden and benefit. For example, assume two people come to an agreement that would let one of them drive over the property of the other. After a number of years, both parties have sold these lands. This easement, assuming a few conditions were met, will bind the new owners, even though these new owners were not parties to the original agreement and did not come to any new agreement among themselves.

 

The binding of future owners to an agreement struck by their predecessors is described as an easement’s or covenant’s running with the land. But for this feature, easements and covenants would be governed by more ordinary contract principles. While some of the historical cruft that has accumulated around these interests in land may still have arisen – after all, this is land we’re talking about – it likely would have been jettisoned far sooner. Now, however, the Third Restatement is making a concerted and explicit effort to clean up the doctrine of servitudes and to replace as much of it as possible with ordinary contract law, too much of it according to some critics.

 

Some sort of clean-up was plainly necessary. In fact, this area of law has been described as “an unspeakable quagmire” of silly and useless distinctions. This is at once unsurprising, given the historical development of the area, and surprising, given the simplicity of the underlying ideas.

 

Simply put, an easement is the right to use the land of another. A covenant is an obligation to do something or to refrain from doing something on one’s own land. Repeat those sentences to yourself a few times. As always, keeping in mind key examples makes things much easier.

 

Examples of easements: a trail across A’s property that connects B’s property to a lake; a driveway across A’s property that B uses to get from his property to a public road; the right of the utility company, B, to string wires on poles across a strip of A’s property.

 

Examples of covenants: a promise by A to B that A will not make commercial use of his property; a promise that A will not build a second story; a promise that A will only build additions that meet with the approval of a homeowner association’s architectural review committee; a promise that A will maintain a wall that separates his property from B’s.

 

It is worth re-emphasizing that easements and covenants are really just particular kinds of contracts (or perhaps gifts). Though they are often distinguished as being “property rights” rather than “contractual,” this distinction does not mean much. Rather than thinking about these obligations as completely different from ordinary contracts, it is more useful to concentrate on the doctrine specific to these kinds of contracts, in particular the practical and policy problems posed by contracts that run with the land.

 

 

 

 

Easements

 

 

 

 

Remember that an easement is the right to use the land of another. When you go to a friend’s house for dinner, you are using their land. But you do not have a right to do so. Rather, you are there by the permission of your host. Such permission to use the land of another is called a license.

 

What’s the difference between a license and an easement? Well, plainly, it comes down to the difference between permission to use land and a right to use land. Permission can be granted and revoked at will. A right to use land, however, is irrevocable. Once A grants an easement, A cannot change his or her mind and end the arrangement unilaterally. If A invites you over for dinner, granting you a license, A can revoke the offer at anytime, and kick you off the property.

 

This is not to say that easements are necessarily permanent. Irrevocable does not mean the easement lasts forever. By its own terms, the easement may expire after one year, one day, when a certain event happens, or otherwise. The key is that the grantor cannot unilaterally rescind the grant. There are a few instances in which licenses are deemed irrevocable, and thus essentially converted into easements by the court. We will study a few of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Creation

 

 

 

 

 

Being interests in land, easements are subject to the statute of frauds, meaning that they must be in writing in order to be valid. The writing requirement contains a number of exceptions, including estoppel and implication, which we will study. But it is useful to remember that writing is at least formally a “requirement” that must be met unless an exception applies. In particular, easements are granted by deeds, just like grants of land. Sometimes an easement is created or transferred in a deed that also grant lands subject to the easement, and sometimes an easement is the only thing granted in a deed.

 

 

 

 

 

Running with the land

 

 

 

 

 

When we say an easement “runs with the land,” we are really talking about two different things, and it is important that we analyze each of these separately. First, we must decide whether the burden of an easement runs with ownership of the burdened land. That is, if I own land that another has a right to cross, I am burdened by an easement. If when I grant this land to another the burden remains on the land, we say that the burden of the easement has run with the ownership of the burdened or servient holding.

 

So when does this happen? In a nutshell, there are three requirements that must be met before the burden is determined to run. (1) The easement must be in writing. It need not appear in every deed subsequent to the one in which was created, so long as the easement is in the chain of title. (2) The burden of the easement must be intended to run with the burdened land. Intent may be presumed, and so ambiguity doesn’t defeat this element. But if it is plain that the easement was not intended to run, then this element will not be met. (3) The owner of the burdened property must have had notice of the easement.

 

Note that the third requirement differs from the first two in the following respect. The first two elements are directed at the original grant of the easement. That is, we can decide whether they are met by looking only at what was going on, perhaps a long time ago, when the easement was created. What did the original parties to the easement intent? And did they put it in writing?

 

The third element, by contrast, looks at whether the new owner of the burdened land had notice of the easement, without regard to the effect of the easement on prior owners of that land, however many of them there may have been. If the new owner lacked notice, the easement does not burden him or her. Notice can come in three forms: (1) actual notice, which means that the new owner actually knows about the easement, (2) record (or constructive) notice, which exists if the easement could have been found in a title search, and (3) inquiry notice, which exists if there is something about the land or some other clue that should have led the new owner to inquire further thus discovering the existence of the easement. Importantly, if an easement expressing an intent to run with the land is duly recorded, all three elements will be met, and the burden of the easement will run with the land.

 

Second, we must decide whether the benefit of an easement runs with the ownership of some parcel of land. That is, if I have the right to use someone else’s land, I have the benefit of an easement. If when I sell property I own, the benefit of that easement automatically transfers to the grantee, then we say that the benefit of the easement runs with the ownership of the benefitted, or dominant holding.

 

Formally, it is simple for the benefit of an easement to run. It does so whenever it was intended to run. An easement intended to run with some benefitted land is called appurtenant to the benefitted land (also called the dominant tenement holding or dominant estate). Otherwise, the easement is personal to the grantee and is called in gross.

 

Unfortunately, it is not always clear whether a grantor intended for an easement to stay with the grantee or run with the grantee’s land. What then? Consider the easement examples above, where B is given a right to use A’s property. Sometimes the easement benefits B because of B’s location. That is, the easement benefits B because of the relation of the easement to land B owns. For example, the driveway and the trail are useful to B because B owns property that is made more convenient or enjoyable by the easement. Such easements are deemed to be appurtenant absent grantor intent to the contrary. Courts will often presume an easement is appurtenant unless it is clearly otherwise.

 

When, on the other hand, the easement is useful to B regardless of any land B might hold, the easement is deemed to be in gross absent contrary intent. The easement to run utility lines across a strip of A’s property is the most common example. There the utility company has the easement and will benefit from the easement to the same degree no matter where it moves its corporate headquarters or other property, including power plants. The usefulness of the easement is the same, practically regardless of where B owns land.

 

In sum: The burden runs when there is writing, intent, and notice. The benefit runs if intended, i.e. appurtenant rather than in gross.

 

 

 

 

 

Transferability

 

 

 

 

 

Appurtenant easements are transferred automatically with the transfer of the lands burdened and benefitted by them. They may not be severed. That is, one may not prevent the benefit of an appurtenant easement from passing to the grantee of the dominant parcel without terminating or modifying the easement, which requires the agreement of the holder of the burdened parcel.

 

The benefit of easements held in gross was traditionally held to be nontransferable. This has changed. Unless the benefit of the easement was intended to be nontransferable, must courts will allow it to be alienated. Some courts distinguish commercial, in gross easements from personal, in gross easements, allowing the former but not the latter to be transferred. (Remember that when we say that the benefit can be transferred, we mean that the holder of the benefit can give that benefit away to someone else, without obtaining the consent of the servient holder.)

 

 

 

 

 

Termination

 

 

 

 

 

Easements will last until they are not terminated. This can occur when: (1) the terms of the easement itself set a time or condition for termination; (2) the dominant and servient holders agree to terminate the easement; (3) the dominant and servient lands are merged under a single owner (one cannot have an easement over one’s own land); (4) the dominant holder by words or deed abandons the easement; (5) the servient holder takes over the easement by prescription; (6) condemnation by the state; (7) the death of the in-gross holder if not intended to be transferable.

 

In addition to these courts have long had ways to terminate easements that have outlived their usefulness. Courts have readily found abandonment in such cases or have declared that the easement’s purpose has been frustrated. The modern trend is towards applying the changed conditions doctrine of covenants to easements as well. We will study this doctrine in the covenants context.

 

5.1. Easements by Estoppel

 

Holbrook v. Taylor,

532 S.W.2d 763 (Ky. 1976)

 

 

 

Harry M. Caudill, Whitesburg, for appellants.

 

Ronald G. Polly, Polly & Craft, Whitesburg, for appellees.

 

 

 

Sternberg, J.

 

This is an action to establish a right to the use of a roadway, which is 10 to 12 feet wide and about 250 feet long, over the unenclosed, hilly woodlands of another. The claimed right to the use of the roadway is twofold: by prescription and by estoppel. Both issues are heatedly contested. The evidence is in conflict as to the nature and type of use that had been made of the roadway. The lower court determined that a right to the use of the roadway by prescription had not been established, but that it had been established by estoppel. The landowners, feeling themselves aggrieved, appeal. We will consider the two issues separately.

 

In Grinestaff v. Grinestaff, Ky., 318 S.W.2d 881 (1958), we said that an easement may be created by express written grant, by implication, by prescription, or by estoppel. It has long been the law of this commonwealth that “(an) easement, such as a right of way, is created when the owner of a tenement to which the right is claimed to be appurtenant, or those under whom he claims title, have openly, peaceably, continuously, and under a claim of right adverse to the owner of the soil, and with his knowledge and acquiescence, used a way over the lands of another for as much as 15 years.” Flener v. Lawrence, 187 Ky. 384, 220 S.W. 1041 (1920); Rominger v. City Realty Company, Ky., 324 S.W.2d 806 (1959).

 

In 1942 appellants purchased the subject property. In 1944 they gave permission for a haul road to be cut for the purpose of moving coal from a newly opened mine. The roadway was so used until 1949, when the mine closed. During that time the appellants were paid a royalty for the use of the road. In 1957 appellants built a tenant house on their property and the roadway was used by them and their tenant. The tenant house burned in 1961 and was not replaced. In 1964 the appellees bought their three-acre building site, which adjoins appellants, and the following year built their residence thereon. At all times prior to 1965, the use of the haul road was by permission of appellants. There is no evidence of any probative value which would indicate that the use of the haul road during that period of time was either adverse, continuous, or uninterrupted. The trial court was fully justified, therefore, in finding that the right to the use of this easement was not established by prescription.

 

As to the issue on estoppel, we have long recognized that a right to the use of a roadway ever the lands of another may be established by estoppel. In Lashley Telephone Co. v. Durbin, 190 Ky. 792, 228 S.W. 423 (1921), we said:

 

 

Though many courts hold that a licensee is conclusively presumed as a matter of law to know that a license is revocable at the pleasure of the licensor, and if he expend money in connection with his entry upon the land of the latter, he does so at his peril * * *, yet it is the established rule in this state that HN3where a license is not a bare, naked right of entry, but includes the right to erect structures and acquire an interest in the land in the nature of an easement by the construction of improvements thereon, the licensor may not revoke the license and restore his premises to their former condition after the licensee has exercised the privilege given by the license and erected the improvements at considerable expense; * * *.

 

 

 

 

In Gibbs v. Anderson, 288 Ky. 488, 156 S.W.2d 876 (1941), Gibbs claimed the right, by estoppel, to the use of a roadway over the lands of Anderson. The lower court denied the claim. We reversed. Anderson’s immediate predecessor in title admitted that he had discussed the passway with Gibbs before it was constructed and had agreed that it might be built through his land. He stood by and saw Gibbs expend considerable money in this construction. We applied the rule announced in Lashley Telephone Co. v. Durbin, supra, and reversed with directions that a judgment be entered granting Gibbs the right to the use of the passway.

 

In McCoy v. Hoffman, Ky., 295 S.W.2d 560 (1956), the facts are that Hoffman had acquired the verbal consent of the landowner to build a passway over the lands of the owner to the state highway. Subsequently, the owner of the servient estate sold the property to McCoy, who at the time of the purchase was fully aware of the existence of the roadway and the use to which it was being put. McCoy challenged Hoffman’s right to use the road. The lower court found that a right had been gained by prescription. In this court’s consideration of the case, we affirmed, not on the theory of prescriptive right but on the basis that the owner of the servient estate was estopped. After announcing the rule for establishing a right by prescription, we went on to say:

 

 

* * * On the other hand, the right of revocation of the license is subject to the qualification that where the licensee has exercised the privilege given him and erected improvements or made substantial expenditures on the faith or strength of the license, it becomes irrevocable and continues for so long a time as the nature of the license calls for. In effect, under this condition the license becomes in reality a grant through estoppel. * * *.

 

 

 

 

In Akers v. Moore, Ky., 309 S.W.2d 758 (1958), this court again considered the right to the use of a passway by estoppel. Akers and others had used the Moore branch as a public way of ingress and egress from their property. They sued Moore and others who owned property along the branch seeking to have the court recognize their right to the use of the roadway and to order the removal of obstructions which had been placed in the roadway. The trial court found that Akers and others had acquired a prescriptive right to the use of the portion of the road lying on the left side of the creek bed, but had not acquired the right to the use of so much of the road as lay on the right side of the creek bed. Consequently, an appeal and a cross-appeal were filed. Considering the right to the use of the strip of land between the right side of the creek bed and the highway, this court found that the evidence portrayed it very rough and apparently never improved, that it ran alongside the house in which one of the protestors lived, and that by acquiescence or by express consent of at least one of the protestors the right side of the roadway was opened up so as to change the roadway from its close proximity to the Moore residence. The relocated portion of the highway had only been used as a passway for about six years before the suit was filed. The trial court found that this section of the road had not been established as a public way by estoppel. We reversed. In doing so, we stated:

 

 

We consider the fact that the appellees, Artie Moore, et al, had stood by and acquiesced in (if in fact they had not affirmatively consented) the change being made and permitted the appellants to spend money in fixing it up to make it passable and use it for six years without objecting. Of course, the element of time was not sufficient for the acquisition of the right of way by adverse possession. But the law recognizes that one may acquire a license to use a passway or roadway where, with the knowledge of the licensor, he has in the exercise of the privilege spent money in improving the way or for other purposes connected with its use on the faith or strength of the license. Under such conditions the license becomes irrevocable and continues for so long a time as its nature calls for. This, in effect, becomes a grant through estoppel. Gibbs v. Anderson, 288 Ky. 488, 156 S.W.2d 876; McCoy v. Hoffman, Ky., 295 S.W.2d 560. It would be unconscionable to permit the owners of this strip of land of trivial value to revoke the license by obstructing and preventing its use.

 

 

 

 

In the present case the roadway had been used since 1944 by permission of the owners of the servient estate. The evidence is conflicting as to whether the use of the road subsequent to 1965 was by permission or by claim of right. Appellees contend that it had been used by them and others without the permission of appellants; on the other hand, it is contended by appellants that the use of the roadway at all times was by their permission. The evidence discloses that during the period of preparation for the construction of appellees’ home and during the time the house was being built, appellees were permitted to use the roadway as ingress and egress for workmen, for hauling machinery and material to the building site, for construction of the dwelling, and for making improvements generally to the premises. Further, the evidence reflects that after construction of the residence, which cost $25,000, was completed, appellees continued to regularly use the roadway as they had been doing. Appellant J. S. Holbrook testified that in order for appellees to get up to their house he gave them permission to use and repair the roadway. They widened it, put in a culvert, and graveled part of it with “red dog”, also known as cinders, at a cost of approximately $100. There is no other location over which a roadway could reasonably be built to provide an outlet for appellees.

 

No dispute had arisen between the parties at any time over the use of the roadway until the fall of 1970. Appellant J. S. Holbrook contends that he wanted to secure a writing from the appellees in order to relieve him from any responsibility for any damage that might happen to anyone on the subject road. On the other hand, Mrs. Holbrook testified that the writing was desired to avoid any claim which may be made by appellees of a right to the use of the roadway. Appellees testified that the writing was an effort to force them to purchase a small strip of land over which the roadway traversed, for the sum of $500. The dispute was not resolved and appellants erected a steel cable across the roadway to prevent its use and also constructed “no trespassing” signs. Shortly thereafter, the suit was filed to require the removal of the obstruction and to declare the right of appellees to the use of the roadway without interference.

 

The use of the roadway by appellees to get to their home from the public highway, the use of the roadway to take in heavy equipment and material and supplies for construction of the residence, the general improvement of the premises, the maintenance of the roadway, and the construction by appellees of a $25,000 residence, all with the actual consent of appellants or at least with their tacit approval, clearly demonstrates the rule laid down in Lashley Telephone Co. v. Durbin, supra, that the license to use the subject roadway may not be revoked.

 

The evidence justifies the finding of the lower court that the right to the use of the roadway had been established by estoppel.

 

The judgment is affirmed.

 

All concur, except Stephenson, J., who dissents.

 

 

Henry v. Dalton,

89 R.I. 150 (1959)

 

 

 

Goodman, Mackenzie, Gorin & Blease, for complainants.

 

Shannahan & Cunningham, James M. Shannahan, Matthew C. Cunningham, for respondent.

 

 

 

Powers, J.

 

This bill in equity was brought to establish an irrevocable right in the land of the respondent for use as a driveway to the garage of the complainants. The cause was heard in the superior court on bill, answer and proof, and thereafter a decree was entered denying and dismissing the bill of complaint. From such decree the complainants have prosecuted an appeal to this court.

 

Their reasons of appeal are that the decree and the decision on which it is based are against the law, against the evidence and against the law and the evidence and the weight thereof.

 

The testimony discloses that on May 27, 1922 the complainants purchased a house on Carver street in the city of Pawtucket and that within a month thereafter respondent’s husband purchased the adjoining property. It further appears that the distance between the foundations of both houses is approximately 14.5 feet, only 5.8 feet of which is the property of complainants. It is mutually agreed that at the time the parties purchased their respective properties a wooden fence separated the properties along the boundary lines. A few years later this fence was taken down and replaced by a hedge, which although planted by respondent’s husband was a joint venture and Henry and Dalton each contributed one half of its cost.

 

It is undisputed that prior to 1938 the respondent and her husband owned a garage in the rear of their property, which from time to time was rented to different tenants, one of whom was the complainant William E. Henry. Access to the garage was had over the property of respondent between her house and the hedge.

 

In 1938 complainant William E. Henry spoke to respondent’s husband about removing the hedge from the boundary line and making common use of their respective properties as a driveway. Henry explained that he wished to construct a two-car garage at the rear of his property since he and his son each had a car. It is undisputed that William Dalton, husband of respondent, readily gave his permission and respondent states in her deposition that her husband advised her of the request and of his consent. The hedge was removed and complainants filled in their own strip to bring it up to grade with their neighbors’ land. At the same time the Henrys constructed a two-car garage at the rear of their property.

 

Although there is conflicting testimony as to whether or not thereafter the Daltons were careful to drive only over the strip which constituted their exclusive property, it is undisputed that until sometime in 1957 the Henrys and the Daltons and their friends used the driveway freely without incident and relations between the parties were friendly and harmonious. In 1954 respondent and her husband placed two posts in the driveway with a chain between them to prevent strangers from backing in and out. It appears that this was done because the Daltons were concerned for the safety of their grandchildren. This measure was taken without consulting the Henrys, but complainant William Henry testified that relations remained as friendly as ever.

 

In November 1956 complainants negotiated for the sale of their home in Pawtucket intending to purchase a home in the town of Cumberland, which property they had visited with the Daltons in June of that year. The complainant husband testified that in June 1956 he told William Dalton of this intention. He stated that both Mr. and Mrs. Dalton accompanied them on a visit to the Cumberland property and at that time Mr. Dalton assured him that there would be no trouble about the driveway in the sale of the Pawtucket property.

 

It is undisputed that about the second week in November 1956 Mr. Henry called on the Daltons and requested that they execute an instrument which would have granted an easement in the driveway, with covenants for each of the parties to maintain one-half thereof and binding on them, their heirs and assigns forever. William Dalton, who at that time was seriously ill and died the following January, refused to execute the agreement stating that signing it was out of the question and he intended to close the driveway.

 

After the death of William Dalton in January 1957 relations between complainants and respondent apparently became strained. It appears from the testimony of complainants’ daughter Dorothy L. Henry that until September 1957 complainants continued to use the driveway despite admitted differences, but in that month she and Mrs. Dalton exchanged words and two days thereafter complainants were notified by Mrs. Dalton’s attorney that, unless the wishes of his client regarding the use of the driveway were respected, permission for its use by complainants would be withdrawn. It does not appear in the record whether any discussions or conferences were had between the parties following receipt of this communication, but on December 4, 1957, complainants brought their bill of complaint.

 

The testimony of complainant William E. Henry was substantially corroborated by that of his wife and their daughter. Because of illness, respondent Jane E. Dalton was unable to testify at the trial, but her testimony was taken by deposition and was substantially corroborated by her son Raymond.

 

The parties differed in their testimony in that while the Henrys insisted that they had paid for the crushed stone, that maintenance of the driveway in such things as clearing it of snow was a joint venture without regard for boundary lines, and that the Daltons drove their car down the center, respondent and her son insisted that William Dalton paid for the crushed stone, that each family removed snow only from their respective portion of the driveway, and that the Daltons drove only on that part of the driveway constituting a part of their land. The trial justice found these conflicting statements were not material to the issue and we agree with him.

 

The complainants make no claim that they have acquired an easement by adverse use. They could not prevail on such a theory since it is undisputed that the use originated by permission. Earle v. Briggs, 49 R.I. 6, 139 A. 499; Foley v. Lyons, 85 R.I. 86, 125 A.2d 247. However, they contend that a license even though orally granted becomes irrevocable when the licensee, relying on the parol agreement, changes his position by making alterations on his property. They argue that in such circumstances withdrawal of the permission by the licensor would constitute “fraud” within the meaning of proceedings in equity.

 

The complainants maintain that when they expended money and labor in bringing the grade of their property up to respondent’s property and constructed a garage, ingress and egress to which depended upon the permanence of the license, they had changed their position in reliance upon their understanding with Mr. Dalton and by implication with respondent, so that the license became executed and by the rule adopted in some jurisdictions was irrevocable. They rely on a line of cases apparently beginning with Rerick v. Kern, 14 S. & R. (Pa.) 267.

 

In that case the respondent gave oral permission to the complainant to divert a stream of water and thus permit the complainant to construct a mill which after considerable expense apparently became very profitable. The Pennsylvania court held that, when the complainant relying on the respondent’s permission expended money and labor, the license became executed and on the theory of estoppel could not be revoked. That principle has been adopted in some other jurisdictions, notably Ohio, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Georgia, Minnesota and Indiana. The complainants have commended for our consideration decisions in the latter four of these jurisdictions, citing Powers v. Coos Bay Lumber Co., 200 Ore. 329, 263 P.2d 913; Shepard v. Purvine, 196 Ore. 348, 248 P.2d 352; Brantley v. Perry, 120 Ga. 760, 48 S.E. 332; Stoering v. Swanson, 139 Minn. 115, 165 N.W. 875; Indianapolis & Cincinnati Traction Co. v. Arlington Tel. Co., 47 Ind. App. 657, 95 N.E. 280.

 

They acknowledge that the authorities are divided on the question, but contend that this court indicated commendation of their contention in Foster v. Browning, 4 R.I. 47. That was an action of trespass for breaking and entering the plaintiff’s close in which the court reversed the trial justice for instructing the jury that if the plaintiff’s predecessor in title had orally licensed a right of way to Browning, and the latter relying on said license had expended moneys in opening and building the way, the license thereby became irrevocable. This was an action at law and Ames, C. J., in speaking for this court, stated at page 52: “In Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and perhaps in some other states, the exploded doctrine of some of the earlier English cases is still maintained at law upon equitable grounds of estoppel, and part-performance of a parol contract, which certainly from their inherent justice would commend themselves to our attention as a court of law, had we not full powers as a court of equity to do justice in a proper case of this sort when applied to on that side of the court.”

 

It appears from the discussion by Ames, C. J. that the license to Browning, although parol, was to him and his heirs in perpetuity. In the instant case there was no definiteness as to time. We are convinced furthermore that the Foster case, as it relates to the case at bar, is authority only for the proposition that a contention such as that made by complainants here has no validity in law and could be advanced for consideration only in equity proceedings. We are persuaded that the rule contended for is in the minority and should not be adopted by this court.

 

We are of the opinion that in reason and justice the better rule is expressed in the case of Crosdale v. Lanigan, 129 N.Y. 604, 29 N.E. 824. There the plaintiff was required to remove a wall built on the property of the defendant pursuant to a license. The court stated the rule at page 610 as follows:

 

 

* * * a parol license to do an act on the land of the licensor, while it justifies anything done by the licensee before revocation, is, nevertheless, revocable at the option of the licensor, and this, although the intention was to confer a continuing right and money had been expended by the licensee upon the faith of the license. This is plainly the rule of the statute. It is also, we believe, the rule required by public policy. It prevents the burdening of lands with restrictions founded upon oral agreements, easily misunderstood. It gives security and certainty to titles, which are most important to be preserved against defects and qualifications not founded upon solemn instruments. The jurisdiction of courts to enforce oral contracts for the sale of land, is clearly defined and well understood, and is indisputable; but to change what commenced in a license into an irrevocable right, on the ground of equitable estoppel, is another and quite different matter. It is far better, we think, that the law requiring interests in land to be evidenced by deed, should be observed, than to leave it to the chancellor to construe an executed license as a grant, depending upon what, in his view, may be equity in the special case.

 

 

 

 

The complainants call to our attention the case of Weeden v. Babcock, apparently decided in this jurisdiction, and of which some discussion is had by Ames, C. J. in Foster v. Browning, supra. It is not published in our reports and we are unable to discover that it is otherwise reported. In any event it would appear that in the Weeden case the complainant yielded up an existing easement in return for a promise from the respondent that an equally acceptable easement would be substituted for that surrendered by the complainant. No such circumstances are present in the instant case and for whatever authority Weeden v. Babcock may stand, it is not applicable to the case at bar.

 

Counsel for the complainants urge that the statute of frauds was conceived and is designed to protect against fraud and should not be used to assist in the perpetration of fraud. We are in accord with this contention, but are not convinced that in the circumstances of the instant case the respondent’s revocation of the complainants’ license is fraudulent within any acceptable definition of that term. The right which complainants seek to establish in the land of the respondent is essentially an easement and should be the subject of a grant, expressed in the solemnity of a written instrument. It is no hardship for one in the position of these complainants either to secure an easement in perpetuity in the manner provided by the statute, or, such being refused, to weigh the advantages inuring to them as against the uncertainty implicit in the making of expenditures on the basis of a revocable license.

 

The complainants’ appeal is denied and dismissed, the decree appealed from is affirmed, and the cause is remanded to the superior court for further proceedings.

 

 

Decker Car Wash, Inc. v. BP Products North America, Inc.,

649 S.E.2d 317 (Ct. App. Ga. 2007)

 

 

 

W. Dent Acree, Atlanta, for Appellant.

 

Karsten Bicknese, Seacrest, Karesn, Tate & Bicknese, Atlanta, for Appellee.

 

 

 

Ellington, Judge.

 

 

 

The Superior Court of Fulton County granted the motion for summary judgment filed by BP Products North America, Inc. in the action to enforce an easement filed by Decker Car Wash, Inc. The trial court denied Decker’s cross-motion for summary judgment. Decker appeals, contending that, pursuant to OCGA § 44-9-4, a parol license to use BP’s property had ripened into an easement running with the land in favor of Decker’s property. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

 

Viewed in the light most favorable to Decker,1 the undisputed evidence showed that Miles F. Daly, Sr. bought 2980 Piedmont Road, Atlanta, in 1964 and operated a car dealership there for the next 30 years. When Daly bought the property, Gulf Oil owned and operated a gas station on the adjacent property, which was at the corner of Piedmont Road and Pharr Road. Daly deposed, without contradiction, that

 

 

[s]tarting in approximately 1965, and continuing to 1995, [he] had several verbal conversations with the owners and operators of the Gulf Station property[.] … In the course of these conversations, [Daly and the owners and operators of the Gulf Station] agreed to maintain a mutually beneficial black topped driveway on an area of [Daly’s] property, whereby parties leaving [Daly’s] property could use this area for egress to the Gulf Station property for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, to allow [his] customers to go and purchase gas at the station, and exit through the Gulf Property to the curb cuts on Pharr Road and to enable such customers to turn left onto Pharr Road or to turn right onto Pharr Road to use the traffic signal at that corner.

 

 

Daly and Gulf Oil constructed a driveway connecting the properties. BP became the owner of the gas station in 1985, through a corporate merger, and Daly’s customers continued using the driveway.

 

Daly closed the car dealership in 1995. After dividing 2980 Piedmont Road into two subparcels, Daly leased the subparcel adjacent to the gas station to Decker in 2001. Decker built a large car wash on the property, at great expense, which opened in 2003. In 2004, Decker’s owner, Francis Lynch, learned that BP had decided to replace the store on its property and to reconfigure the parking lot. BP erected a chain barricade across the driveway that connected the BP station and Decker’s car wash and later built a solid wall there.

 

Decker brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment, a temporary restraining order, and damages. After a hearing, the trial court denied Decker’s request for injunctive relief. After a second hearing to consider the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted BP’s motion and denied Decker’s motion.

 

Decker asserts that, because Daly and Gulf Oil mutually agreed to link their properties with a driveway and to allow use by the other for ingress and egress and then Daly incurred expenses in the execution of the license, the license ripened into an easement running with the land which Decker is entitled to enforce. In the alternative, Decker asserts that in 2003 BP gave Decker a parol license to use the gas station property for ingress and egress, and similarly that it incurred expenses in the execution of the license which ripened into an easement running with the land.

 

Under the Statute of Frauds, an oral agreement conveying an interest in land is unenforceable. OCGA § 13-5-30(4). One limited exception to the Statute of Frauds is set out in OCGA § 44-9-4, as follows:

 

 

A parol license to use another’s land is revocable at any time if its revocation does no harm to the person to whom it has been granted. A parol license is not revocable when the licensee has acted pursuant thereto and in so doing has incurred expense; in such a case it becomes an easement running with the land.

 

 

This executed parol license doctrine is essentially one of estoppel.2 As the Supreme Court of Georgia explained in a case upon which the Code section was based, “where acts have been done by one party, upon the faith of a license given by another, the [licensor] will be estopped from revoking it to the injury of the [licensee], and this even if the exercise of the right given by the license, is of a nature to amount to the enjoyment of an easement or other incorporated hereditament.” Sheffield v. Collier, 3 Ga. 82, 87 (1847). A license subject to this exception is one such as permission to erect a building or other structure, “which in its own nature seems intended to be permanent and continuing.” Id. at 86. In the case of such a license, the licensee would necessarily have to incur expense to execute the agreement and would sustain a resulting loss if the licensor were entitled to later revoke the license. Id.3 When the enjoyment of a license must necessarily be preceded by the expenditure of money, and when the licensee “has made improvements or invested capital in consequence of it, he has become a purchaser for a valuable consideration.” Id. at 88.4 This is so because such a license “is a direct encouragement to expend money, and it would be against all conscience to annul it, as soon as the benefit expected from the expenditure is beginning to be perceived.” (Punctuation omitted.) Id. at 88-89. In other words, where the license has been executed, “in distinction from cases where it is executory only,” it becomes irrevocable. Id. at 85.5

 

As noted in the Restatement, “[t]he power to dispense with the Statute [of Fraud]’s requirements to give effect to the intent of the parties [to an oral agreement to create a servitude] should be exercised with caution[,] because of the risk that exceptions will undermine the policies underlying the Statute of Frauds[,]” and only when necessary to prevent injustice. Restatement of the Law (Third) of Property: Servitudes, § 2.9(b). Where the execution of a parol license does not require erecting a structure on the licensor’s land, Georgia courts have generally recognized the creation of an irrevocable easement only where the licensee’s enjoyment of the license is necessarily preceded by some investment of funds which increases the value of the licensor’s land to the licensor. Cox v. Zucker, 214 Ga. 44, 51-52(3), 102 S.E.2d 580 (1958) (despite the fact that in reliance on a license the licensee erected a building that could only be reached by crossing the licensor’s property, the license was revocable where the licensee did nothing to improve the burdened estate); Tift v. Golden Hardware Co., 204 Ga. 654, 667-669(6), 51 S.E.2d 435 (1949) (license was revocable where a hardware company built a warehouse in anticipation of using a spur track across the licensor’s property but did nothing to enhance the value of the spur track on the subservient property). In these cases, the mere fact that a licensee erects improvements upon his own land in the expectation of enjoying a parol license, and thereby incurs expense, is not enough to make the license irrevocable under OCGA § 44-9-4.6

 

To the extent Decker contends a license of ingress and egress granted to Daly ripened into an easement that runs with the land, there is no evidence that Daly built any structure or improvement on BP’s land such as would bring it within the cases cited in note 5, supra. Furthermore, despite Daly’s expenditures improving his own land in the expectation of enjoying the license, there is no evidence Daly invested a substantial amount in improving BP’s land. As a result, we conclude that the undisputed evidence established that Daly did not act pursuant to the oral license of ingress and egress and in so doing incur expense in consequence of the license, as those terms are used in OCGA § 44-9-4. See McCorkle v. Morgan, 268 Ga. 730, 731, 492 S.E.2d 891 (1997) (where licensees used a parking lot for six years before incurring any expenses in connection with it, “the licensee’s enjoyment of the license was not preceded necessarily by the expenditure of money,” and, therefore, the license did not ripen into an easement pursuant to OCGA § 44-9-4). Before BP’s predecessor-in-interest granted Daly the license, Daly operated a car dealership (and later Decker operated a car wash) on his property, and ingress and egress was on Piedmont Road. After BP revoked the license, Decker operated the existing car wash, and ingress and egress for Daly’s property was on Piedmont Road. Because Daly’s parol license to use BP’s land did not ripen into an easement pursuant to OCGA § 44-9-4, it follows that BP was entitled to revoke the license.

 

To the extent Decker contends a license of ingress and egress granted directly to it ripened into an easement, there is no evidence that BP granted Decker any such license. OCGA § 44-9-4 “is operative only where there is an express oral license; [i]t does not apply to implied licenses[,]” as may be presumed from the acts of the licensor. Berolzheimer v. Taylor, 230 Ga. 595, 600, 198 S.E.2d 301 (1973). While there is evidence that Decker’s owner believed and assumed that Decker had permission to use the gas station for ingress and egress, there is no evidence that an authorized agent of BP ever granted Decker express permission to do so.7 It follows that BP was entitled to terminate Decker’s use of the BP’s property. Id.

 

Because no jury issue has been presented regarding whether any parol license to use the gas station property ripened into an easement running with the land, the trial court correctly granted BP’s motion for summary judgment.

 

Judgment affirmed.

 

Andrews, P.J., and Adams J., concur.

 


    1. In order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment under OCGA § 9-11-56,

       

      the moving party must show that there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and that the undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demand judgment as a matter of law. Moreover, on appeal from the denial or grant of summary judgment the appellate court is to conduct a de novo review of the evidence to determine whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact, and whether the undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, warrant judgment as a matter of law.

       

      (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Benton v. Benton, 280 Ga. 468, 470, 629 S.E.2d 204 (2006).

 

    1. See Cherokee Mills v. Standard Cotton Mills, 138 Ga. 856, 859-860(1), (2), 76 S.E. 373 (1912) (where one mill company granted another company a license to use a spur railroad track that crossed licensor’s property, and in reliance thereon the licensee built a mill on its own property at great expense and thereby executed the license, the license ripened into an easement appurtenant to the land). See also, Restatement of the Law (Third) of Property: Servitudes, § 2.9 (2000 ed.); Herbert T. Tiffany and Basil Jones, 3 Tiffany Real Prop. § 834 (Revocability of license Effect of improvements by licensee) (1939).

 

    1. As examples of licenses not subject to this exception, on the other hand, the Court noted “acts which consist in repetition, as to walk in a park, to use a carriage-way, to fish in the waters of another, or the like; which license, if countermanded, the party is but in the same situation he was before it was granted.” Sheffield v. Collier, 3 Ga. at 86. See also Strozzo v. Coffee Bluff Marina Property, 250 Ga.App. 212, 215-216(2), 550 S.E.2d 122 (2001) (where the licensor expressly permitted the licensee to erect a gear shack on her riverfront property and to conduct its marine rescue operations from there, and licensee built the gear shack and thereby executed the license, which was “a license to construct something permanent and enduring attended with expense” and “not a mere license to walk in a park, to use a roadway, to fish in the waters of another, or the like,” the license ripened into an easement).

 

    1. See also McCorkle v. Morgan, 268 Ga. 730, 731, 492 S.E.2d 891 (1997) (OCGA § 44-9-4 “is based on the principle that a license becomes an agreement for a valuable consideration, and the licensee a purchaser for value, where the enjoyment of the license must necessarily be preceded by the expenditure of money”) (citations and emphasis omitted).

 

    1. See also Bell Indus. v. Jones, 220 Ga. 684, 686-688, 141 S.E.2d 533 (1965) (where a licensor granted a licensee permission to install a pipe on the licensor’s land and to use it to dispose of its industrial waste water on the licensor’s land, and the licensee expended money to install the pipe and thereby executed the license, the license ripened into an easement running with the land); Mathis v. Holcomb, 215 Ga. 488, 488-490(1), 111 S.E.2d 50 (1959) (where a licensor granted a licensee permission to build a private way on the licensor’s land and to use it to pass from a public road to the licensee’s back yard, and the licensee expended money to build the driveway and thereby executed the license, the license ripened into an easement running with the land); Brantley v. Perry, 120 Ga. 760, 761-762, 48 S.E. 332 (1904) (where a licensor granted a licensee permission to construct a ditch on the licensor’s land and to use it to drain the licensee’s land, and the licensee expended money to construct the ditch and thereby executed the license, the license ripened into an irrevocable easement); Southwestern R. v. Mitchell, 69 Ga. 114, 122-125(2) (1882) (where a licensor granted a licensee permission to erect a part of a mill dam on the licensor’s land and to overflow a part of that land, and the licensee expended money to build the dam and thereby executed the license, the license became irrevocable); Lowe’s Home Centers v. Garrison Ridge Shopping Center, 283 Ga.App. 854, 855-856, 643 S.E.2d 288 (2007) (where a licensor granted a licensee permission to install a sign on the licensor’s property, and the licensee expended money to install the sign and thereby executed the license, the license ripened into an easement running with the land); Hopkins v. Virginia Highland Assoc., 247 Ga.App. 243, 244-245(1), 541 S.E.2d 386 (2000) (where a licensor granted a licensee permission to install a sewer line across the licensor’s property and to use it to connect with the municipal water system, and the licensee expended money to install the sewer line and thereby executed the license, the license ripened into an easement running with the land).

 

    1. See also Dolvin v. Caldwell, 214 Ga. 687, 689-690(2), 107 S.E.2d 199 (1959) (approving this jury instruction: “[I]n cases where a person claims that he has an irrevocable parol license to use lands of another, the person claiming such right must show that he has invested some substantial amount in exercising the license on the land effected thereby, and expenditures made in connection with improvements on adjacent land of the one claiming the license are not to be considered as such expense as will prevent the revocation of such license, even though these improvements were made with the expectation of being able to continue using the license.”); Miller v. Slater, 182 Ga. 552, 558-559(2), 186 S.E. 413 (1936) (license to use a neighbor’s driveway was revocable, even though the plaintiff built a garage “so near to the driveway that it is impossible for her to drive a car in or out of the garage without at the same time using the way” on the licensor’s property, based on the following factors: the driveway was already intact and suitable for use and there was no necessity for the licensee to incur any expense in passing over the driveway or in putting it in condition for such use; the improvements the licensee made were on her own property “in the expectation of enjoying the license” and “did not enhance the value of the driveway in the slightest degree so far as the licensor was concerned”; there was nothing to show that the “location of the garage was actually necessary to the enjoyment of the license or that a different and equally suitable location could not have been selected”; and the licensee did not part with anything amounting to a consideration, in that she had surrendered no right and still had her lot and all of the improvements made thereon); Blake v. RGL Assoc., 267 Ga.App. 709, 710(1), 600 S.E.2d 765 (2004) (where a licensor granted a parol license to cross the licensor’s property to access an adjacent highway and the licensee incurred expenses in making necessary improvements both to its property and to the licensor’s property, the license ripened into an easement).

 

    1. Decker’s owner deposed that, before leasing the subparcel from Daly, he “saw that cars were exiting onto [Pharr Road] – it was defacto an exit, so [he] imagined that that was something you could do.” Use of the driveway connecting the parcels “didn’t need to be discussed because it was defacto, a fact. There was no need… . Everybody knew … that the cars were going in both directions through this” driveway. Decker’s owner further deposed that a man he “took to … be” a BP manager told him that BP’s business had increased as a result of the opening of Decker’s car wash and that someone a Decker employee “believed to be like an area manager type person” reportedly “discussed the beneficial effects of the [car wash] patrons going to purchase gas at the BP pumps.” Pretermitting whether these statements were admissible, they do not amount to an express license to use BP’s property.

 

 

 

 

 

5.2. Easements by Implication

 

Van Sandt v. Royster,

148 Kan. 495 (1938)

 

 

 

Guy Lamer and DeWitt M. Stiles, both of Iola, for appellant.

 

T. R. Evans, B. M. Dunham, and James A. Allen, all of Chanute, for appellees.

 

 

 

Allen, Justice.

 

The action was brought to enjoin defendants from using and maintaining an underground lateral sewer drain through and across plaintiff’s land. The case was tried by the court, judgment was rendered in favor of defendants, and plaintiff appeals.

 

In the city of Chanute, Highland avenue running north and south intersects Tenth street running east and west. In the early part of 1904 Laura A. J. Bailey was the owner of a plot of ground lying east of Highland avenue and south of Tenth street. Running east from Highland avenue and facing north on Tenth street the lots are numbered, respectively, 19, 20 and 4. In 1904 the residence of Mrs. Bailey was on lot 4 on the east part of her land.

 

In the latter part of 1903, or the early part of 1904, the city of Chanute constructed a public sewer in Highland avenue, west of lot 19. About the same time a private lateral drain was constructed from the Bailey residence on lot 4 running in a westerly direction through and across lots 20 and 19 to the public sewer.

 

On January 15, 1904, Laura A. J. Bailey conveyed lot 19 to John J. Jones, by general warranty deed with usual covenants against encumbrances, and containing no exceptions or reservations. Jones erected a dwelling on the north part of the lot. In 1920 Jones conveyed the north 156 feet of lot 19 to Carl D. Reynolds; in 1924 Reynolds conveyed to the plaintiff, who has owned and occupied the premises since that time.

 

In 1904 Laura A. J. Bailey conveyed lot 20 to one Murphy, who built a house thereon and by mesne conveyances the title passed to the defendant Louise Royster. The deed to Murphy was a general warranty deed without exceptions or reservations. The defendant Gray has succeeded to the title to lot 4 upon which the old Bailey home stood at the time Laura A. J. Bailey sold lots 19 and 20.

 

In March, 1936, plaintiff discovered his basement flooded with sewage and filth to a depth of six or eight inches, and upon investigation he found for the first time that there existed on and across his property a sewer drain extending in an easterly direction across the property of Royster to the property of Gray. The refusal of defendants to cease draining and discharging their sewage across plaintiff’s land resulted in this lawsuit.

 

The trial court returned findings of fact, from which we quote:

 

 

The plaintiff and the defendants Louise Royster and Lael Bailey Gray are the present owners, respectively, of properties adjoining one another in Bailey’s Addition to the City of Chanute, Kansas, on each of which properties there is a residence, the plaintiff being the owner of Lot 19, the defendant Louise Royster being the owner of part of Lot 20, and the defendant Lael Bailey Gray being the owner of Lot 4, part of original Lot 9 in Block 3, in said Addition. All of said properties front to the north on Tenth Street. Plaintiff’s property is farthest west. Immediately adjoining it on the east is the Royster property and immediately adjoining the Royster property on the east is the Gray property. Immediately adjoining plaintiff’s property on the west is Highland Avenue, a public street.

 

2. Laura A. J. Bailey was originally the owner of all the above described properties and other land adjacent thereto and prior to the summer of 1904 the only residence or dwelling house on any of said properties was the house on the property fartherest east, namely Lot 4, being the property now owned by Gray.

 

3. On January 15, 1904, Laura A. J. Bailey sold to John J. Jones said Lot 19 (and other land) and conveyed same to him by general warranty deed, and with usual covenants against encumbrances, and containing no exceptions or reservations whatsoever. The deed was duly recorded. John Jones erected a dwelling house on the north 156 feet of Lot 19. On January 12, 1920, John Jones conveyed the north 156 feet of Lot 19 to Carl D. Reynolds by general warranty deed containing usual covenants against encumbrances, and containing no exceptions or reservations whatsoever, but also included the “appurtenances thereunto belonging,” etc. This deed was duly recorded. On November 7, 1934, Carl D. Reynolds conveyed said last described property to plaintiff by general warranty deed with usual covenants against encumbrances excepting only a mortgage thereon, but also including the “appurtenances thereunto belonging,” etc. Plaintiff has owned and occupied said property ever since.

 

4. On April 14, 1904, Laura A. J. Bailey conveyed part of Lot 20 to W. P. Murphy who erected a dwelling house on the lot and later sold that property to W. E. Royster, conveying the same by general warranty deed without reservation but including the ‘appurtenances thereunto belonging,’ etc., and from said W. E. Royster the property passed to the defendant Louise Royster.

 

5. The defendant Lael Bailey Gray has succeeded to the title to Lot 4 upon which the old Bailey house stood at the time Laura Bailey sold the other lots.

 

6. In the latter part of the year 1903 or the early part of 1904 the City of Chanute extended its public sewer system and constructed a public sewer running north and south in Highland Avenue immediately west of Lot 19 above mentioned. When this public sewer was constructed a private sewer was laid from the old Bailey house on Lot 4 in a general westerly direction across Lots 20 and 19 to the public sewer in Highland Avenue and the old Bailey house was connected through this private sewer to the public sewer. When the houses were erected on Lot 19 and Lot 20 respectively, these houses were connected with this private sewer, and the same has been in continuous use for all of said properties ever since.

 

7. At the time Laura A. J. Bailey sold Lot 19 to Jones she owned Lot 18 which lies south of Lots 19 and 20, extends in an east and west direction from the west boundary of Lot 4 (or original Lot 9) near the southwest corner thereof to Highland Avenue. The east boundary of Lot 18 is contiguous with the west boundary of original Lot 9 for a distance of at least 20 feet north from the southwest corner of said Lot 9. Lot 18 was not sold by Mrs. Bailey until November, 1905.

 

8. There is not now and was not at the time plaintiff purchased his property anything on record in the office of the Register of Deeds of the county pertaining to the private sewer above referred to.

 

9. At the time plaintiff purchased his property he and his wife made a careful and thorough inspection of the same, knew that the house they were buying was equipped with modern plumbing and knew that the plumbing had to drain into a sewer, but otherwise had no further knowledge of the existence of said lateral sewer.

 

10. That the lateral sewer in controversy was installed prior to the sale of the property by Mrs. Laura A. J. Bailey to John J. Jones on January 15, 1904; but if not, the said lateral sewer certainly was installed shortly after the sale to John J. Jones and with the knowledge and acquiescence of said John J. Jones, and that the said John J. Jones paid the said Mrs. Laura A. J. Bailey one-third of the cost of the installation of the said sewer.

 

11. That all of the original owners of the three properties in controversy, to-wit, Laura A. J. Bailey, John J. Jones and W. P. Murphy, had notice and knowledge of the existence of the lateral sewer in controversy, and all acquiesced in the use of the sewer by all parties, and the use of the sewer by the said parties and their successors in interest has been continuous from the time of its installation to the present time-a period of more than 33 years-and has been a mutual enterprise and the said lateral sewer was an appurtenance to the properties belonging to plaintiff and Louise Royster, and the same is necessary to the reasonable use and enjoyment of the said properties of the parties.

 

 

 

 

The drain pipe in the lateral sewer was several feet under the surface of the ground. There was nothing visible on the ground in the rear of the houses to indicate the existence of the drain or the connection of the drain with the houses.

 

As a conclusion of law the court found that “an appurtenant easement existed in the said lateral sewer as to all three of the properties involved in the controversy here.” Plaintiff’s prayer for relief was denied and it was decreed that plaintiff be restrained from interfering in any way with the lateral drain or sewer.

 

Plaintiff contends that the evidence fails to show that an easement was ever created in his land, and assuming there was an easement created, as alleged, that he took the premises free from the burden of the easement for the reason that he was a bona fide purchaser, without notice actual or constructive.

 

Defendants contend: (1) That an easement was created by implied reservation on the severance of the servient from the dominant estate of the deed from Mrs. Bailey to Jones; (2) there is a valid easement by prescription.

 

In finding No. 11, the court found that the lateral sewer “was an appurtenance to the properties belonging to plaintiff and Louise Royster, and the same is necessary to the reasonable use and enjoyment of the said properties of the parties.”

 

As an easement is an interest which a person has in land in the possession of another, it necessarily follows that an owner cannot have an easement in his own land. Johnston v. City of Kingman, 141 Kan. 131, 39 P.2d 924, 98 A.L.R. 588; Ferguson v. Ferguson, 106 Kan. 823, 189 P. 925.

 

However, an owner may make use of one part of his land for the benefit of another part, and this is frequently spoken of as a quasi easement. “When one thus utilizes part of his land for the benefit of another part, it is frequently said that a quasi easement exists, and the part of the land which is benefited being referred to as the ‘quasi dominant tenement’ and the part which is utilized for the benefit of the other part being referred to as the ‘quasi servient tenement.’ The so called quasi easement is evidently not a legal relation in any sense, but the expression is a convenient one to describe the particular mode in which the owner utilizes one part of the land for the benefit of the other.

 

“If the owner of land, one part of which is subject to a quasi easement in favor of another part, conveys the quasi dominant tenement, an easement corresponding to such quasi easement is ordinarily regarded as thereby vested in the grantee of the land, provided, it is said, the quasi easement is of an apparent continuous and necessary character.” 2 Tiffany, Real Property (2d Ed.) pp. 1272, 1273.

 

Following the famous case of Pyer v. Carter, 1 Hurl. & N. 916, some of the English cases, and many early American cases, held that upon the transfer of the quasi servient tenement there was an implied reservation of an easement in favor of the conveyor. Under the doctrine of Pyer v. Carter, no distinction was made between an implied reservation and an implied grant.

 

The case, however, was overthrown in England by Suffield v. Brown, 4 De G.J. & S. 185, and Wheeldon v. Burrows, L.R. 12 Ch.D. 31. In the former case the court said:

 

 

It seems to me more reasonable and just to hold that if the grantor intends to reserve any right over the property granted, it is his duty to reserve it expressly in the grant, rather than to limit and cut down the operation of a plain grant (which is not pretended to be otherwise than in conformity with the contract between the parties), by the fiction of an implied reservation. If this plain rule be adhered to, men will know what they have to trust, and will place confidence in the language of their contracts and assurances.

 

* * *

 

But I cannot agree that the grantor can derogate from his own absolute grant so as to claim rights over the thing granted, even if they were at the time of the grant continuous and apparent easements enjoyed by an adjoining tenement which remains the property of him the grantor.

 

 

 

 

Many American courts of high standing assert that the rule regarding implied grants and implied reservations is reciprocal and that the rule applies with equal force and in like circumstances to both grants and reservations. Washburn on Easements, 4th Ed., 75; Miller v. Skaggs, 79 W.Va. 645, 91 S.E. 536, Ann.Cas.1918 D, 929.

 

On the other hand perhaps a majority of the cases hold that in order to establish an easement by implied reservation in favor of the grantor the easement must be one of strict necessity, even when there was an existing drain or sewer at the time of the severance.

 

Thus in Howley v. Chaffee et al., 88 Vt. 468, 474, 93 A. 120, 122, L.R.A.1915D, 1010, the court said:

 

 

With the character and extent of implied grants, we now have nothing to do. We are here only concerned with determining the circumstances which will give rise to an implied reservation. On this precise question the authorities are in conflict. Courts of high standing assert that the rule regarding implied grants and implied reservation of “visible servitudes” is reciprocal, and that it applies with equal force and in like circumstances to both grants and reservations. But upon a careful consideration of the whole subject, studied in the light of the many cases in which it is discussed, we are convinced that there is a clear distinction between implied grants and implied reservations, and that this distinction is well founded in principle and well supported by authority. It is apparent that no question of public policy is here involved, as we have seen is the case where a way of necessity is involved. To say that a grantor reserves to himself something out of the property granted, wholly by implication, not only offends the rule that one shall not derogate from his own grant, but conflicts with the grantor’s language in the conveyance, which by the rule is to be taken against him, and is wholly inconsistent with the theory on which our registry laws are based. If such an illogical result is to follow an absolute grant, it must be by virtue of some legal rule of compelling force. The correct rule is, we think, that where, as here, one grants a parcel of land by metes and bounds, by a deed containing full covenants of warranty and without any express reservation, there can be no reservation by implication, unless the easement claimed is one of “strict necessity,” within the meaning of that term as explained in Dee v. King, 73 Vt. 375, 50 A. 1109.

 

 

See, also, Brown v. Fuller, 165 Mich. 162, 130 N.W. 621, 33 L.R.A.,N.S., 459, Ann.Cas.1912C, 853. The cases are collected in 58 A.L.R. 837.

 

We are inclined to the view that the circumstance that the claimant of the easement is the grantor instead of the grantee, is but one of many factors to be considered in determining whether an easement will arise by implication. An easement created by implication arises as an inference of the intentions of the parties to a conveyance of land. The inference is drawn from the circumstances under which the conveyance was made rather than from the language of the conveyance. The easement may arise in favor of the conveyor or the conveyee. In the Restatement of Property, Tentative draft No. 8, Section 28, the factors determining the implication of an easement are stated:

 

 

Sec. 28. Factors Determining Implication of Easements or Profits.

 

In determining whether the circumstances under which a conveyance of land is made imply an easement or a profit, the following factors are important: (a) whether the claimant is the conveyor or the conveyee, (b) the terms of the conveyance, (c) the consideration given for it, (d) whether the claim is made against a simultaneous conveyee, (e) the extent of necessity of the easement or the profit to the claimant, (f) whether reciprocal benefits result to the conveyor and the conveyee, (g) the manner in which the land was used prior to its conveyance, and (h) the extent to which the manner of prior use was or might have been known to the parties.

 

 

Comment (j) under the same Section, reads:

 

 

The extent to which the manner of prior use was or might have been known to the parties. The effect of the prior use as a circumstance in implying, upon a severance of possession by conveyance, an easement or a profit results from an inference as to the intention of the parties. To draw such an inference, the prior use must have been known to the parties at the time of the conveyance, or, at least, have been within the possibility of their knowledge at the time. Each party to a conveyance is bound not merely to what he intended, but also to what he might reasonably have foreseen the other party to the conveyance expected. Parties to a conveyance may, therefore, be assumed to intend the continuance of uses known to them which are in a considerable degree necessary to the continued usefulness of the land. Also they will be assumed to know and to contemplate the continuance of reasonably necessary uses which have so altered the premises as to make them apparent upon reasonably prudent investigation. The degree of necessity required to imply an easement in favor of the conveyor is greater than that required in the case of the conveyee (see Comment b). Yet, even in the case of the conveyor, the implication from necessity will be aided by a previous use made apparent by the physical adaptation of the premises to it.

 

Illustrations:

 

9. A is the owner of two adjacent tracts of land, Blackacre and Whiteacre. Blackacre has on it a dwelling house. Whiteacre is unimproved. Drainage from the house to a public sewer is across Whiteacre. This fact is unknown to A who purchased the two tracts with the house already built. By reasonable effort, A might discover the manner of drainage and the location of the drain. A sells Blackacre to B who has been informed as to the manner of drainage and the location of the drain and assumes that A is aware of it. There is created by implication an easement of drainage in favor of B across Whiteacre.

 

10. Same facts as in Illustration 9, except that both A and B are unaware of the manner of drainage and the location of the drain. However, each had reasonable opportunity to learn of such facts. A holding that there is created by implication an easement of drainage in favor of B across Whiteacre is proper.

 

 

 

 

At the time John J. Jones purchased lot 19 he was aware of the lateral sewer, and knew that it was installed for the benefit of the lots owned by Mrs. Bailey, the common owner. The easement was necessary to the comfortable enjoyment of the grantor’s property. If land may be used without an easement, but cannot be used without disproportionate effort and expense, an easement may still be implied in favor of either the grantor or grantee on the basis of necessity alone. This is the situation as found by the trial court.

 

Neither can it be claimed that plaintiff purchased without notice. At the time plaintiff purchased the property he and his wife made a careful and thorough inspection of the property. They knew the house was equipped with modern plumbing and that the plumbing had to drain into a sewer. Under the facts as found by the court, we think the purchaser was charged with notice of the lateral sewer. It was an apparent easement as that term is used in the books. Wiesel v. Smira, 49 R.I. 246, 142 A. 148, 58 A.L.R. 818; 19 C.J. 868.

 

The author of the annotation on easements by implication in 58 A.L.R. at page 832, states the rule as follows: “While there is some conflict of authority as to whether existing drains, pipes, and sewers may be properly characterized as apparent, within the rule as to apparent or visible easements, the majority of the cases which have considered the question have taken the view that appearance and visibility are not synonymous, and that the fact that the pipe, sewer, or drain may be hidden underground does not negative its character as an apparent condition; at least, where the appliances connected with and leading to it are obvious.”

 

As we are clear that an easement by implication was created under the facts as found by the trial court, it is unnecessary to discuss the question of prescription.

 

The judgment is affirmed.

 

Harvey, J., concurs in the order of affirmance, but not in all that is said in the opinion.

 

Wedell, J., not sitting.

 

 

 

 

5.3. Easements by Necessity

 

Pierce v. Wise,

639 S.E.2d 348 (Ga. Ct. App. 2006)

 

 

 

Greer, Klosik, Daugherty, Swank & McCune, Frank J. Klosik, Jr., Alina A. Krivitsky, Atlanta, for appellant.

 

Charles D. Joyner, Buford, for appellees.

 

 

 

Phipps, Judge.

 

 

 

… .

 

Pierce owns a triangular 0.40-acre parcel of property located in Lot 31 of Lawson Manor Subdivision. He bought the property for $10,000 in 2000. The adjacent Lots 30 and 32 are owned by Wise and Hopeful, respectively. According to Pierce, the tip of his triangular parcel touches the adjacent public roadway, Lawson Drive, at a point so narrow that it does not permit him to access the roadway without traversing either Wise’s property on the one side or Hopeful’s property on the other. According to Pierce, the base of the triangle gives him approximately “100 foot coverage of waterfront on Lake Lanier.”

 

Following his purchase, the United States Army Corps of Engineers allowed Pierce to build a boat dock in Lake Lanier, thereby giving Pierce access to his property via the waterway. In addition, Wise orally gave Pierce permission to cross over Wise’s Lot 30 to gain access to Pierce’s Lot 31 via Lawson Drive. Subsequently, however, Wise and Hopeful sent Pierce letters instructing him to cease and desist from gaining access to his property from Lawson Drive over their properties.

 

Evidence was presented showing that Pierce currently accesses his property by land by parking at the end of Lawson Drive and walking about 650 to 700 feet along the shore of Lake Lanier through Army Corps of Engineers property down a path that is between four and ten feet wide depending on the height of the lake water. As a member of the public, Pierce may use this pathway and remove minor landscaping insofar as that obstructs his ability to traverse the pathway by foot. But he cannot construct improvements to the pathway to provide vehicular access.

 

Evidence sought to be admitted by Pierce showed that Wise’s ex-wife’s mother acquired ownership of Lots 30, 31, and 32 in 1986; that she had the property surveyed in 1993; and that Lot 30 (which had been a rectangular lot with adequate access to Lawson Drive) became a triangular-shaped lot with no usable road frontage only as a result of an error in the survey. Hopeful, through its owner Newt Anderson, subsequently acquired Lot 32 as a real estate investment in foreclosure proceedings. After purchasing the property, Anderson discovered that Lot 32 included property that he thought would have been in Lot 31. Wise acquired Lot 30 from his ex-wife. For over 25 years, he had used the property as a lake house and then as his primary residence.

 

1. Pierce first contends that the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion for partial summary judgment, as well as his motion for directed verdict at the conclusion of the presentation of evidence at trial, on the question of necessity for the private way.

 

OCGA § 44-9-40(b) permits any person or corporation who owns real estate in this state to file a petition in the superior court of the county having jurisdiction praying for a judgment condemning an easement of access, ingress, and egress over and across the property of another. To prove the necessity of such a private way, OCGA § 44-9-40(b) requires the petitioner or condemnor to show he has no other reasonable means of access to his property, i.e., that he is landlocked.1 OCGA § 44-9-40(b) additionally authorizes the court to find that the condemnation and declaration of necessity constitute an abuse of discretion and to enjoin the proceeding based on a finding that the exercise of such right of condemnation by the condemnor is “otherwise unreasonable.”2

 

Intl. Paper Realty Corp. v. Miller3 addressed the issue of whether, under the statute, navigable waters alone may afford a person “reasonable” access to his property. Miller held that in this day and age, a navigable stream is seldom considered a reasonable way to travel to and from one’s property. Accordingly, Miller decided to treat property to which there is no access other than by navigable waterway as property to which there is presumptively no reasonable means of access for purposes of proving necessity under OCGA § 44-9-40(b).

 

 

Thus where the condemnor establishes that the only access to his property is by way of navigable waters, he has established a prima facie case that he has no reasonable means of access under OCGA § 44-9-40(b). The burden then shifts to the condemnee to go forward with the evidence and demonstrate that access to the navigable waters constitutes a reasonable means of access under the peculiar circumstances of the case.4

 

 

Mersac, Inc. v. Nat. Hills Condo. Assn.5 held that where a property owner landlocks himself voluntarily or as a result of negligence in selling off surrounding property and failing to reserve an easement, condemnation of a private way of necessity over lands of another may be found to be “otherwise unreasonable” under OCGA § 44-9-40(b). Blount v. Chambers6 found declaration of a private way unreasonable where the petitioners had other, albeit more inconvenient, means of access to their property and condemnation of the private way would have greatly inconvenienced the condemnees.

 

Clearly, Pierce has no vehicular access to his property; his pedestrian access by land either is extremely cumbersome and inconvenient via the Lake Lanier shoreline or is limited to no more than a two-foot gap between his lot and one of the adjacent lots along Lawson Drive; and his only remaining access is by the navigable waters of Lake Lanier. Unlike the petitioner in Mersac, Pierce did not landlock himself either voluntarily or negligently by failing to reserve an easement. Property owners’ “actions in voluntarily creating their hardship are distinguishable from cases [such as this] wherein the landowner purchases property with knowledge that it is landlocked. In such a case, the purchaser’s knowledge does not preclude a finding of ‘strict necessity.’ …”7 The law of this state gives a property owner the right to condemn an easement over his neighbors’ property if he needs that land as a means of ingress and egress to his property and if condemnation of the easement would not unreasonably inconvenience them. Unquestionably, Pierce needs the easement to provide vehicular access to his property. And, unlike in Blount, no undue inconvenience to the condemnees appears. In fact, evidence proffered by Pierce shows that all three lots were previously rectangularly shaped, but became irregularly reconfigured so as to deny his tract adequate access to Lawson Drive only as a result of a surveying error. Grant of the private way would simply restore his property’s prior access. The trial court thus erred in denying Pierce’s motions for partial summary judgment and directed verdict.

 

… .

 


    1. Intl. Paper Realty Corp. v. Miller, 255 Ga. 676, 677, 341 S.E.2d 445 (1986).

 

    1. Mersac, Inc. v. Nat. Hills Condo. Assn., 267 Ga. 493, 494(1), 480 S.E.2d 16 (1997); see Blount v. Chambers, 257 Ga.App. 663, 572 S.E.2d 32 (2002).

 

    1. Supra.

 

    1. 255 Ga. at 677-678, 341 S.E.2d 445.

 

    1. Supra.

 

    1. Supra.

 

    1. Graff v. Scanlan, 673 A.2d 1028, 1035, n. 12 (Pa.Commw.Ct.1996) (citation omitted).

 

 

 

 

 

5.4. Scope and Overburdening

 

Cox v. Glenbrook Company,

371 P.2d 647 (Nev. 1962)

 

 

 

Bible, McDonald & Jensen and Donald L. Carano, Reno, for appellants.

 

Laxalt & Laxalt, Carson City, for respondent.

 

 

 

Thompson, Justice.

 

In this case Glenbrook Company, a family corporation, by complaint, and Cox and Detrick, copartners, by answer and counterclaim, each request a declaratory judgment as to the scope and extent of a certain right-of-way berein referred to as the ‘Quill Easement,’ granted Henry Quill by the Glenbrook Company in 1938. The conveying instrument reads:

 

 

That said grantor, in consideration of the sum of ten dollars ($10.00), lawful money of the United States of America, to it in hand paid by the grantee, receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, does by these presents grant, bargain, sell and convey to the said grantee an easement and right-of-way, with full right of use over the roads of the grantor as now located or as they may be located hereafter (but such relocation to be entirely at the expense of the grantor) from the State Highway known as U. S. Route 50 to the following described property: [description of Quill property]

 

 

 

To have and to hold said right-of-way and easement unto the said grantee, his heirs and assigns forever.

 

 

 

 

1. The Facts.

 

 

 

The relevant facts are not disputed. The Quill property contains 80 acres. Henry Quill died in 1943. In 1945 the administratrix of his estate sold the property, with appurtenances, to Kenneth F. Johnson for $8,600. In 1960 Johnson sold the property to Cox and Detrick for $250,000, $50,000 down, with the balance secured by trust deed and payable over an extended period.

 

Cox and Detrick propose to subdivide their property into parcels of one acre or more, resulting in a minimum of 40 or a maximum of 60 separate parcels.1 The building on each parcel is to be limited to a residence and a guesthouse. Permanent, as distinguished from seasonal, homes are planned. A commercial development of the property is not contemplated. Zoning will permit the proposed development. Cox and Detrick have incurred expenses of about $17,000 in preliminary development work, including leveling of the ‘back road,’ drilling a well, testing the soil, and staking out four one-acre parcels which were released from the deed of trust. In leveling the ‘back road,’ four pieces of equipment were taken on a transport from U. S. Highway 50 to said road. In doing the work some trees were ‘barked’ and at least two trees were knocked down. The ‘back road’ was too narrow to permit passage of the caterpillars. An advertising program to sell the individual parcels was commenced. Cox and Detrick anticipate a fully developed subdivision in ten years. The 80 acres are said to be surrounded on two sides by property owned by George Whittel, and on two sides by the property of Glenbrook Company. The Quill Easement is the only existing ingress to and egress from that tract.

 

The property of Glenbrook Company fronts on Glenbrook Bay, Lake Tahoe. For more than 25 years it has operated a resort business. Its facilities consist of a beach, approximately 30 guest cottages, a tennis court, riding stables, foot paths for hiking, horse trails for riding, a golf course, a post office, a rodeo area, a service station, a bar, and a dining room and lounge at the Glenbrook Inn. The golf course may be used by nonguests upon paying a higher green fee. The bar is open to the public, as is the dining room when not completely reserved by guests. There is no gambling. Glenbrook is operated on a seasonal basis from mid-June through September and is widely known as a beautiful summer vacation resort for families, many of whom return year after year. The atmosphere sought to be maintained is that of peace, seclusion and quiet. The roads through the property are generally unpaved except for the main road from U. S. Highway 50 to the golf course. At the entrance to the main road is a sign stating that permission to pass over is revocable at any time. The main road is the only way in or out from the Glenbrook properties. In years past, from time to time, Glenbrook Company has sold small parcels of its property to individuals. In each instance it has granted the purchaser a right-of-way for ingress and egress.

 

The following rought sketch will, perhaps, be of some assistance.

 

To get to the Cox and Detrick property one may take either the ‘golf course road’ or the ‘back road.’ Before this action started, the ‘golf course road’ was fenced off at the point indicated. A portion of the ‘back road’ was built in 1936 to provide a way to water tanks which supplied water for the solf course. In the late 1930’s it was extended to the Quill (now Cox and Detrick) properties. Glenbrook Company, because of friendship with Quill, supplied the tractor and blade used in so extending the road. The road was, and is, narrow and unpaved. In most places it is wide enough for only one car. Trees, rocks and manzanita generally border it. There is an occasional ‘turn out.’ A worker, who extended the road to the Quill property in the late 1930’s, stated that Quill just wanted ‘a rought road, so that he could go on up with a car.’Cox frankly stated that he would like to use the ‘back road’ if it ‘were passable,’ and that he definitely wanted to widen the road. That road has seldom been used by anyone except the four or five families having homes along its course, and their guests.

 

 

 

2. The lower court’s judgment.

 

 

 

After trial before the court without a jury, judgment was entered declaring that the Quill Easement is limited in three respects: (a) ‘to such uses as are and will be reasonably consistent with the use to which the servient property is employed, that is, a conservative, family, mountain resort operation, and is further limited, as to reasonable use, to the use contemplated in the original grant to Quill, that is, access to and egress from the entire dominant parcel by a single family in occupancy, and their guests’; (b) ‘to use of the Glenbrook roads as those roads are presently constructed and maintained, or as the Glenbrook Company by its own action or by mutual agreement with interested parties, may hereafter locate and construct roads in the Glenbrook estate’; and (c) that ‘The proposed use of the so-called Quill Easement by the defendants herein, that is, the use of the Glenbrook roads by purchasers of subdivided parcels of the former Quill property, would constitute an illegal and unjustified burden and surcharge upon the servient estate.’

 

 

 

3.Area of contention.

 

 

 

The primary contentions which we are called upon to resolve are: first, whether the Quill conveyance with regard to its extent is clear and without ambiguity; and, second, whether the limitations of its use placed thereon by the lower court are justified by the law and the facts presented. The assignments of error by appellants Cox and Detrick are primarily directed to these two areas of contention and related matters. However, they also assigned, as error, two incidental points which are referred to and disposed of by footnote.2

 

 

 

4. Is the Quill conveyance clear as to its extent?

 

 

 

We have heretofore quoted the Quill Easement. By its terms the grantor conveyed ‘an easement and right-of-way, with full right of use over the roads of the grantor as now located or as they may be located hereafter… from the State Highway known as U. S. Route 50 to the following described property: …’ The trial court announced in a conclusion of law that the terms of the grant are not so clear and precise as to exclude interpretation regarding its true extent and limit. The appellant subdividers urge that the meaning of the conveyance is clear; that ‘full right of use’ cannot mean a restricted or limited use; that the lower court should not have looked to extrinsic evidence to aid it in ascertaining the parties’ intention at the time the grant was made. On the other hand, Glenbrook Company argues that the phrase ‘full right of use’ must be considered in the light of circumstances existing at the time the grant was made, and the actual use of the way thereafter; that such circumstances are relevant and admissible to aid the court in ascertaining the extent of an easement created by conveyance.

 

No issue regarding admissibility of evidence was raised during trial. Objection was not made to any of the evidence offered, except as to testimony relating to whether the grant was gratuitously made, which we have already discussed.3 Yet the court below, by way of a conclusion of law after trial, held that it could refer to ‘extrinsic evidence’ for the purpose of interpreting the meaning of the grant with regard to its ‘true extent and limits.’ The record does not reveal what ‘extrinsic evidence’ was considered by the lower court for this purpose, and we do not propose to speculate in this connection.

 

By the phrase ‘extent of an easement’ is meant the scope of the privilege of use authorized by the easement. Here the grantor conveyed an easement with ‘full right of use.’ To our mind, that phrase is clear and without ambiguity. It may not, under the veil of interpretation, be considered to mean a ‘restricted right of use.’ Keeler v. Haky, 160 Cal.App.2d 471, 325 P.2d 648. In Keeler, the grantor gave ‘the full and free right, to pass and repass along, over and upon said private road.’ The court there said: ‘The language of the grant deed, dated April 17, 1934, is clear and free from ambiguity and uncertainty and does not create such a condition as to require or authorize the court to consider extrinsic evidence as to the meaning of the written agreement between the parties.’Furthermore, the court held that the right to pass and repass over the private road was unrestricted.

 

The process which creates an easement necessarily fixes its extent. The extent of an easement created by prescription, is fixed by the use which created it. Likewise, the extent of an easement created by conveyance is fixed by the conveyance, Restatement, property, s 482, comment (a), at p. 3010, if clear and unambiguous.4

 

We therefore conclude that the trial court committed error in deciding that the phrase ‘full right of use’ was subject to judicial interpretation. This error probably resulted in the restrictions placed upon the Quill Easement by the judgment entered. However, we cannot be certain that this is so. In any event, it is our view that the judgment is too restrictive in certain respects, incomplete in others, and premature as to a third aspect of the litigation. It will be our purpose to point out wherein the judgment imposes unwarranted restrictions upon the possessors of the dominant tenement, to define the rights of the parties in the areas where the judgment is silent, and announce why, as to a certain phase of this case, a definitive determination cannot yet be made.

 

 

 

5.The unwarranted restrictions.

 

 

 

 

(A)

 

 

 

 

We shall first discuss that portion of the judgment restricting the use to ingress to and egress from the entire dominant parcel ‘by a single family in occupancy and their guests.’Such a restriction, in our view, destroys the appurtenant character of the easement. Yet, there can be no question but that the Quill Easement was appurtenant to the 80 acre tract then owned by him. The terms of the conveyance, ‘to have and to hold said right-of-way and easement unto the said grantee, his heirs and assigns forever’, make it clear that one who succeeds to the possession of the dominant tenement, succeeds as well to the privileges of use of the servient tenement authorized by the conveyance. Furthermore, those who succeed to the possession of each of the parts into which the dominant tenement may be subdivided, also succeed to such privileges of use, unless otherwise provided by the terms of the conveyance. Bang v. Forman, 244 Mich. 571, 222 N.W. 96; Crawford Realty Company v. Ostrow (R.I.1959), 150 A.2d 5;Restatement, Property, s 488, comments (b) and (c); Akers v. Baril, 300 Mich. 619, 2 N.W.2d 791; Hewitt v. Perry, 309 Mass. 100, 34 N.E.2d 489; Martin v. Music (Ky.1953), 254 S.W.2d 701; Annots. 8 A.L.R. 1368, 34 A.L.R. 972. The Quill conveyance does not contain a restriction that the easement granted is to be appurtenant to the dominant estate only while such estate remains in single possession, and none may be imposed by judicial declaration.

 

 

 

 

(B)

 

 

 

 

The judgment further restricts the use of the easement to ‘use of the Glenbrook roads as those roads are presently constructed and maintained.’We are uncertain as to the precise meaning of this restriction. If such language prohibits the owner of the dominant estate from making any improvements or repairs of the way, it is too restrictive. As a general rule, the owner of an easement may prepare, maintain, improve or repair the way in a manner and to an extent reasonably calculated to promote the purposes for which it was created. The owner may not, however, by such action, cause an undue burden upon the servient estate, nor an unwarranted interference with the independent rights of others who have a similar right of use.5 Annot. 112 A.L.R. 1303. The action of Cox and Detrick in leveling or ‘rough grading’ the ‘back road,’ to the extent that it was confined to the area within the exterior borders of the road as they existed when the easement was originally granted, was an improvement reasonably calculated to promote the purposes for which the easement was created. Such leveling or rough grading as so confined, would not, in itself, cause an undue burden upon the servient estate, nor constitute an unwarranted interference with the easement rights of other private property owners.

 

However, their conduct in attempting to widen the way is another matter. A careful study of the record makes it clear that the ultimate intention of the subdividers is to widen the ‘back road’ in order that two cars going in opposite directions may pass comfortably at all points along its course. The conveying instrument does not specify the width of the way expressly; it does, however, refer to the ‘roads as now located.’ The ‘back road’ as it existed at the time of the grant of easement, was described as a ‘small road,’ and wide enough for just one car. The record does not disclose that the predecessors of Cox and Detrick ever sought or attempted to widen the ‘back road.’ There is no evidence tending to indicate that either Glenbrook Company or Henry Quill contemplated or intended a wider road than existed when the grant was made. When the width is not specified, the conveying instrument must be construed in the light of the facts and circumstances existing at its date and affecting the property, the intention of the parties being the object of inquiry. Annot. 28 A.L.R.2d 253. Lipsky v. Heller, 199 Mass. 310, 85 N.E. 453; Dunham v. Dodge, 235 Mass. 367, 126 N.E. 663; Drummond v. Foster, 107 Me. 401, 78 A. 470. Indeed, it is sometimes held, as a matter of law, that where the width of a right-of-way is not specified in the grant, it is limited to the width as it existed at the time of the grant. Good v. Petticrew, 165 Va. 526, 183 S.E. 217. We need not go that far. We believe that the intention of the parties at the time of the grant, when there is evidence to indicate such intention, controls as to width.6

 

As already stated, the only evidence in the record with reference to the ‘back road’ indicates that Henry Quill desired a way wide enough for one car; that such was the character of the ‘back road’ at that time, with occasional ‘turn outs.’ We must conclude, therefore, that such was the parties’ intention in 1938 when the grant was made. If the width of the way is what the lower court had in mind when it restricted the easement to ‘use of the Glenbrook roads as those roads are presently constructed and maintained’ (the record revealing no substantial change from 1938 to time of trial, except for the work of Cox and Detrick before mentioned), then we find ourselves in accord.

 

 

 

6.Area wherein judgment is silent.

 

 

 

Glenbrook Company erected a fence or barrier across the ‘golf course road’ at or near the point indicated on the sketch. Cox and Detrick desire permission to use that road. They removed the barrier, but it was again erected by Glenbrook Company. The predecessors of Cox and Detrick used the ‘back road’ for ingress and egress; the ‘golf course road’ was, however, used occasionally. The judgment belower does not touch on this aspect of the case.

 

The conveyance gave full right of use over ‘the roads.’ Both roads existed at that time. However, the conveyance also permitted relocation of the roads by Glenbrook Company at its own expense.

 

The evidence purpose of the conveyance is to assure ingress to and egress from the dominant parcel, over the servient estate, to U. S. Highway 50. It is admitted by Cox and Detrick that Glenbrook Company could discontinue the use of, or barricade the existing roads, and relocate them without infringing upon the Quill Easement so long as ingress and egress was given to the dominant parcel over the roads as relocated. The action by Glenbrook Company in barricading the ‘golf course road’ is, to a degree, a ‘relocation’ of that portion of the right-of-way, and authorized by the terms of the conveyance. Cf. Heyna v. Lyons, 228 Ky. 211, 14 S.W.2d 766; Lyon v. Lea, 84 Me. 254, 24 A. 844. The purpose of the conveyance is not frustrated by such conduct.

 

 

 

7.Area wherein judgment is premature.

 

 

 

The judgment entered also declared that the proposed use of the Quill Easement would constitute an illegal burden and surcharge upon the servient estate. This declaration, we believe, deals with the subject with which the parties are most deeply concerned. They earnestly desire a specific declaration of their legal rights arising out of the Quill conveyance in order that their future courses of action may be planned. Though this be so, every judgment following a trial upon the merits must be based upon the evidence presented; it cannot be based upon an assumption made before the facts are known or have come into existence. The announced intention by the owners of the dominant estate as to their proposed future use of the easement does not, of itself, constitute an unreasonable burden upon the servient estate. When the facts concerning that use become known, an unreasonable burden upon the servient estate may, or may not result. That determination must await the presentation of evidence then in existence.

 

NRS 30.110 of the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act contemplates that the determination of an issue of fact is to be tried and determined in the same manner as issues of fact are tried and determined in other civil actions. All parties concede that the issue as to whether the actual use to which an easement is devoted, constitutes an unreasonable burden upon the servient estate, is primarily a question of fact and not of law. The authorities so hold. Bang v. Forman, 244 Mich. 571, 222 N.W. 96, a subdivision case, where the court said, ‘The extent to which the use of the easement had been increased was a question of fact for the court.’; Wall v. Rudolph, Cal.App., 18 Cal.Rptr. 123, 131,’Ordinarily the question of whether there has been an unreasonable use of an easement is one of fact…’; Siedler v. Waln, 266 Pa. 361, 109 A. 643, 645, 8 A.L.R. 1363, where the court stated, ‘While ‘it is difficult, if not impossible, to lay down a clear and definite rule to determine what may be construed a reasonable and proper use [of an easement], as distinguished from an unreasonable and improper one, and such questions must, of necessity, be usually left to the determination of a jury or the trial court, as questions of fact’…, here the chancellor has found the facts against defendants; and we are convinced of reversible error in that regard.’

 

A distinction must be drawn between the construction of a writing as contemplated by NRS 30.040 of the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, and the determination of an issue of fact provided for by NRS 30.110 of that act. As applied to the case before us, matters respecting the extent of the privilege to use the easement are governed by the terms of the instrument itself, if mentioned. The phrase ‘full right of use’ as used therein we have declared to be clear, and not the subject of interpretation. On the other hand, the problem respecting the width of the way, which was not designated by the instrument itself, was the subject of determination based upon factual information in existence and received during trial. The conveying instrument was, therefore, interpreted to mean the width of the way as it existed at the time of the grant. Each of these matters dealt with the extent of the privilege of use.

 

However, problems arising from the actual use of the way as distinguished from the privilege to use it, do not, in most cases, depend upon a construction of the conveying instrument, but rather upon the consequences resulting from such actual use. This being so, factual circumstances which may arise in the future cannot be fairly determined now. As to this phase of the case we are asked to make a hypothetical adjudication, where there is presently no justiciable controversy, and where the existence of a controversy is dependent upon the happening of future events. Cf. Prashker v. United States Guarantee Company, 1 N.Y.2d 584, 154 N.Y.S.2d 910, 136 N.E.2d 871. A declaratory judgment should deal with a present, ascertained or ascertainable state of facts. See Hunt v. Smith (Fla.App.1962), 137 So.2d 232, where plaintiff asked the court to decree that it would have an easement of necessity if certain events occurred in the future.

 

Indeed, Glenbrook Company has stated that its purpose in initiating this suit is not to enjoin the proposed subdivision. It is vitally interested, however, in maintaining the atmosphere of peace, seclusion and quiet for which it is widely known. Whether a subdivision, on the one hand, can coexist with the maintenance of such an atmosphere, on the other, cannot now be determined because of the lack of sufficient evidence. Consequently, a judgment cannot now be announced which will supply all of the answers desired by the parties. For example: Suppose we were to assume a completed subdivision, 40 or 60 homes with guesthouses, within 10 years, and declared, at this time, that the use of the Quill Easement by the possessors of the subdivided parcels, would unreasonably burden the servient estate. Such a declaration by us would not determine whether such use by a lesser number would likewise surcharge the servient estate. Nor can we forecast whether the character of Glenbrook will remain the same or change within the next 10 years. There is no feasible method, at this time, by which we can declare in advance the point at which the burden upon the servient estate becomes unreasonable. Such court declaration must await the knowledge and presentation of proper evidence. In our judgment the lower court erred in declaring that the proposed use of the Quill Easement would constitute an unreasonable burden upon the servient estate, in the absence of existing evidence. It should have done no more than to announce, in general terms, the applicable legal principle within which a subsequent factual determination could be made if occasion therefor arises.

 

 

 

Conclusions:

 

 

 

From the foregoing it is apparent that the parties seek a declaration of rights in the following respects:

 

 

1. The scope and extent of the easement as described by the words ‘full right of use’ in the conveying instrument.

 

 

 

2. The legal right, if any, of the owners of the easement to maintain, repair and improve the way.

 

 

 

3. The legal right, if any, of the owners of the easement to widen the way.

 

 

 

4. The legal right, if any, of the owner of the servient estate to barricade that portion of the way referred to as the ‘golf course road.’

 

 

 

5. A declaration now as to whether uses of the way, concomitant with a future proposed subdivision, will, if completed, or during the course of its development, cause an unreasonable burden upon the servient estate.

 

 

As to these matters, we conclude:

 

 

First: The privilege of use of the Glenbrook roads as located on January 7, 1938 (the date of the grant of easement) is not restricted by the terms of the grant, and is appurtenant to the dominant estate, and may be enjoyed by those who succeed to the possession of the dominant estate in its entirety or by those who succeed to the possession of the parts into which such estate may be subdivided.

 

 

 

Second: The owners of the easement may maintain, repair and improve the way in a manner reasonably calculated to promote the purposes for which the easement was created, provided, however, (a) such maintenance, repair or improvement is confined to the area within the exterior borders of the way as it existed on January 7, 1938 (the date of the grant of easement); (b) that such maintenance, repair, or improvement will not cause an undue burden upon the servient estate; (c) that such maintenance, repair or improvement will not cause an unwarranted interference with the independent rights of others who have a similar right of use.

 

 

 

Third: The owners of the easement may not widen the way, its width being limited, by reason of the evidence introduced, to the width of the way on January 7, 1938 (the date of the grant of easement); and, insofar as the portion of the way herein referred to as the ‘back road’ is concerned, that width is sufficient only for one car with occasioned ‘turn outs.’

 

 

 

Fourth: The owner of the servient estate has the right to relocate the way at its own expense, which right includes the right to barricade that portion of the existing way herein referred to as the ‘golf course road.’

 

 

 

Fifth: The owners of the easement may not, by reason of their proposed subdivision development, or otherwise, cause an undue burden upon the servient estate, or an unwarranted interference with the independent rights of others who have a similar right of use. Whether such a burden or interference will occur cannot be conclusively declared upon existing evidence. In the event the owners of the easement proceed with their announced plan, their use of the way is limited to the extent herein noted. We believe it proper, however, at this time, to note that, should they proceed with their proposed plan, the trier of the facts in subsequent litigation, if it occurs, might or might not determine upon evidence then existing, that their use of the way causes an unreasonable burden upon the servient estate or an unwarranted interference with the independent rights of others who have a similar right of use; hence, any further action on their part to develop their property in the manner proposed is subject to such contingency.

 

 

Modified and remanded for judgment in accordance with this opinion. Each party shall bear his own costs on this appeal.

 

 

 

McNamee, J., concurs

 

I concur in the conclusions reached by Mr. Justice Thompson, but fear that some of the expressions used in the opinion might in some future case be taken to limit unduly the power of the court in actions under the Declaratory Judgments Act. While it is undoubtedly true that ‘factual circumstances which may arise in the future cannot be fairly determined now,’ it is likewise true that an expressed purpose and intention to perform acts that will, under satisfactory proof, surcharge the servient tenement with an unreasonable burden is a present threat of invasion of plaintiff’s rights and subject to declaratory determination. It need not await the event.NRS 30.030, 30.040, 30.050, 30.070, 30.140. See Kress v. Corey, 65 Nev. 1, 189 P.2d 352, and cases therein cited.

 


    1. The lower court apparently assumed that 80 separate parcels would be created. The evidence does not bear this out.

 

    1. (a) Cox and Detrick objected to hearsay evidence offered to show that the Quill conveyance was gratuitously given. Ruling upon the objection was reserved, and the record does not reflect that a ruling was ever made. The original findings determined that a nominal consideration was paid for the conveyance. That finding was deleted upon motion of Cox and Detrick. The amended findings are silent on the subject. In the absence of a ruling upon the objection, and it being apparent that the point had no significance in the determination of the case, there can be no merit to this claim of error.

       

      (b) Cox and Detrick urge that the lower court took judicial notice that the use of the Glenbrook roads was exclusive in nature. The record simply does not establish this to be so. It reflects only that the ‘court has first-hand knowledge of that condition’; it does not tell us what ‘that condition’ was or is. Obviously this claim of error is without validity.

 

    1. The reason for the absence of objection is evident. No person was available to testify that the terms of the grant did not state the true intention of the persons named therein. W. M. Bliss, who signed as vice-president of grantor, is dead. His cosigner for grantor, Herbert E. Hall, at that time its assistant secretary, did not testify and the record does not tell us why. The grantee, Henry Quill, died in 1943. A witness was not presented who sought to declare the intention of those persons as being different than expressed in the grant of easement. Had such testimony been offered, perhaps objection would have been made. Under the circumstances here presented, no reason existed for any party to object to the evidence offered.

 

    1. Glenbrook Company urges that the trial court, by virtue of the ‘rule of practical construction’ could properly consider evidence of the actual use of the way by predecessors of Cox and Detrick, to fix the extent of the use created by the conveying instrument. That rule does not apply where the instrument is clear. Woods v. Bromley, 69 Nev. 96, 241 P.2d 1103.

 

    1. The factual background related mentions other property owners to whom Glenbrook Company has given similar rights of ingress and egress. To the extent mentioned by the general rule of law, this litigation is of significance to them.

 

    1. The ‘full right of use’ phrase, previously discussed, does not embrace the problem of width. There can be a ‘full right to use’ a narrow as well as a wide road.

 

 

 

 

 

5.5. Easements in Gross

 

Green v. Lupo,

647 P.2d 51 (Wash. Ct. App., 1982).

 

 

 

Christopher Boutelle, Tacoma, for appellants.

 

Alan Rasmussen, Spanaway, for respondents.

 

 

 

Petrich, Acting Chief Judge.

 

The plaintiffs, Don Green and his wife Florence, initiated this suit to specifically enforce an agreement to grant an easement. From a decree which determined that the contemplated easement was personal rather than appurtenant to their land as claimed, plaintiffs appeal. We reverse.

 

The issue raised on appeal is whether parol evidence is admissible to construe an easement as personal to the grantees where the easement is agreed in writing to be for ingress and egress for road and utilities purposes but the writing does not expressly characterize the easement as either personal or appurtenant. We believe that parol evidence was properly admitted here but the conclusion that the easement is personal to plaintiffs was erroneous.

 

The parties involved are adjoining landowners. The plaintiffs, once the owners of the entire tract, now retain several acres located south of the defendants’ property. The defendants purchased their parcel (the north tract) from the plaintiffs by real estate contract. While they were still paying on that contract, the defendants requested a deed release to a small section of the north tract to allow financing for the construction of a home. The plaintiffs agreed in return for the promise of an easement along the southern 30 feet of the north tract when the defendants eventually obtained title. The express terms of the promised easement were contained in a written agreement which was executed in the form required for the conveyance of an interest in real property.RCW 64.04.

 

The plaintiffs’ development of their land for mobile home occupancy caused tension between the landowners. Apparently some of the occupants of plaintiffs’ mobile home development used the easement as a practice runway for their motorcycles. When the defendants obtained title to the north tract they refused to formally grant the easement as promised. They also placed logs along the southern boundary of the easement to restrict access from the plaintiffs’ property. The plaintiffs brought this action to obtain specific performance of the promise to grant an easement and to enjoin any interference with their use of the easement.

 

Evidence was admitted describing a single-family cabin or residence built by or for the plaintiffs in the northeast corner of the plaintiffs’ tract. It was defendants’ contention, and they so testified, that the purpose of the easement was to serve the plaintiffs in their personal use and occupancy of this cabin or home. They claimed the easement was not intended to serve the plaintiffs’ entire tract, part of which had been developed as a mobile home site, and which had access by other existing roads.

 

The trial court concluded that an easement was granted for the use and benefit of the plaintiffs alone and could not be assigned or conveyed. The court ordered the plaintiffs’ use to be limited to ingress and egress for their own home or cabin and prohibited the passage of motorcycles.

 

It was the duty of the court in construing the instrument which created the easement to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the parties. The intention of the parties is determined by a proper construction of the language of the instrument. Where the language is unambiguous other matters may not be considered; but where the language is ambiguous the court may consider the situation of the property and of the parties, and the surrounding circumstances at the time the instrument was executed, and the practical construction of the instrument given by the parties by their conduct or admissions. Seattle v. Nazarenus, 60 Wash.2d 657, 665, 374 P.2d 1014 (1962); Broadacres, Inc. v. Nelsen, 21 Wash.App. 11, 583 P.2d 651 (1978). Simply stated parol evidence may always be used to explain ambiguities in written instruments and to ascertain the intent of the parties. Levy v. North American Ins. Co., 90 Wash.2d 846, 852, 586 P.2d 845 (1978); see also Green River Valley Foundation, Inc. v. Foster, 78 Wash.2d 245, 473 P.2d 844 (1970); Corinthian Corp. v. White & Bollard, 74 Wash.2d 50, 442 P.2d 950 (1968); The Brower Co. v. Baker & Ford Co., 71 Wash.2d 860, 431 P.2d 595 (1967); Harding v. Warren, 30 Wash.App. 848, 639 P.2d 750 (1982); Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Burlington Northern, Inc., 15 Wash.App. 314, 549 P.2d 54 (1976); Lynch v. Higley, 8 Wash.App. 903, 510 P.2d 663 (1973); Dennis v. Southworth, 2 Wash.App. 115, 467 P.2d 330 (1970).

 

The pivotal issue in deciding the propriety of admitting parol evidence is whether the written instrument is ambiguous. A written instrument is ambiguous when its terms are uncertain or capable of being understood as having more than one meaning. Ladum v. Utility Cartage, Inc., 68 Wash.2d 109, 116, 411 P.2d 868 (1966); Harding v. Warren, supra; Rydman v. Martinolich Shipbuilding Corp., 13 Wash.App. 150, 534 P.2d 62 (1975); Spahn v. Pierce County Medical Bureau, Inc., 7 Wash.App. 718, 502 P.2d 1029 (1972); Murray v. Western Pacific Ins. Co., 2 Wash.App. 985, 472 P.2d 611 (1970).

 

The written instrument promised the easement specifically to the plaintiffs, to “Don Green and Florence B. Green,” and described the easement as “for ingress and egress for road and utilities purpose.”The designation of named individuals as dominant owners evidences an intent that the easement be personal to the named parties. Kemery v. Mylroie, 8 Wash.App. 344, 506 P.2d 319 (1973). The grant of an easement for ingress, egress and utilities to the owners of adjacent land is evidence of an intent that the easement benefit the grantees’ adjacent land. Winsten v. Prichard, 23 Wash.App. 428, 597 P.2d 415 (1979). We find that the instrument was ambiguous as to whether the easement granted was personal to the plaintiffs or appurtenant to their land. We therefore conclude that parol evidence was properly admitted.

 

The trial court’s findings of fact are supported by competent evidence and are not assigned as error; they must be considered as verities on appeal. McIntyre v. Fort Vancouver Plywood Co., 24 Wash.App. 120, 600 P.2d 619 (1979). The court’s findings do not, however, support the conclusion that the easement was personal. The court found that the easement was granted for ingress, egress, for road and utilities purposes. As we have noted, the grant of such an easement supports the conclusion that the easement was intended to be an easement appurtenant. In addition, the trial court found “the use of the easement by the plaintiff was to obtain access to the land, retained by plaintiff, for the construction and habitation by plaintiff in a cabin.”(Italics ours.) This finding also supports the conclusion that the easement was intended to benefit plaintiffs’ land.

 

The trial court’s conclusion that the easement was personal to the plaintiffs was erroneous. There is a strong presumption in Washington that easements are appurtenant to some particular tract of land; personal easements, easements in gross, are not favored. Pioneer Sand & Gravel Co. v. Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Co., 102 Wash. 608, 173 P. 508 (1918); Roggow v. Hagerty, 27 Wash.App. 908, 621 P.2d 195 (1980); Kemery v. Mylroie, supra. An easement is not in gross when there is anything in the deed or the situation of the property which indicates that it was intended to be appurtenant to land retained or conveyed by the grantor. 2 G. Thompson, Real Property s 324 at 78 (1980 repl.). Viewed in this light, the court’s factual findings mandate the conclusion that the easement was intended to be appurtenant to plaintiffs’ property.

 

Easements appurtenant become part of the realty which they benefit. Unless limited by the terms of creation or transfer, appurtenant easements follow possession of the dominant estate through successive transfers. The rule applies even when the dominant estate is subdivided into parcels, with each parcel continuing to enjoy the use of the servient tenement. Clippinger v. Birge, 14 Wash.App. 976, 547 P.2d 871 (1976). See also Winsten v. Prichard, supra. The terms of the easement promised do not limit its transfer. The easement promised the plaintiffs is appurtenant to their property and assignable to future owners of that property.

 

The defendants request that equitable limitations be imposed on any easement granted. A servient owner is entitled to impose reasonable restraints on a right of way to avoid a greater burden on the servient owner’s estate than that originally contemplated in the easement grant, so long as such restraints do not unreasonably interfere with the dominant owner’s use. Rupert v. Gunter, 31 Wash.App. 27, 640 P.2d 36 (1982).

 

Testimony presented at trial showed that youngsters who now live on the dominant estate use their motorcycles on the easement in a fashion that constitutes a dangerous nuisance which was not considered when the easement was created. This evidence supports the imposition of equitable restrictions on the dominant owners’ use, restrictions which will not unreasonably interfere with that use.

 

The trial court enjoined the use of motorcycles on the easement. There is insufficient evidence on the record to assess the impact of a complete ban on motorcycle use on the dominant estate’s owners. Motorcycles are a common means of transportation. On its face, the ban appears to unreasonably interfere with the dominant owners’ use of the easement. Although an equitable solution to the motorcycle problem is necessary, the trial court abused its discretion in imposing a ban on motorcycles without proper consideration of the ban’s effect on the dominant owners’ use of the easement.

 

Reversed and remanded with directions to modify the decree so as to declare the easement for ingress and egress for road and utility purposes to be appurtenant to plaintiffs’ property and to devise reasonable restrictions to assure that the easement shall not be used in such a manner as to create a dangerous nuisance.

 

 

 

Petrie, J., and Thompson, J. pro tem., concur.

 

 

Henley v. Continental Cablevision of St. Louis County, Inc.,

692 S.W.2d 825 (Mo. App. E.D. 1985)

 

 

 

Stuart M. Haw, Norman Bierman, St. Louis, for plaintiffs-appellants.

 

Nathan B. Kaufman, Shelley Weinhaus, S. Sheldon Weinhaus, St. Louis, for defendant-respondent.

 

 

 

Carl. R. Gaertner, Judge.

 

Plaintiffs, as trustees of University Park subdivision, appeal from an order dismissing their petition for failure to state a claim in an action against defendant Continental Cablevision of St. Louis County, Inc. We affirm.

 

The facts essential to a resolution of this matter are not in dispute.1 Pursuant to an indenture recorded on April 8, 1922, plaintiffs’ predecessors as trustees, were expressly granted the right to construct and maintain electric, telephone and telegraphic service on or over the rear five feet of all lots in the subdivision, and to grant easements to other parties for the purposes of creating and maintaining such systems. In July, 1922 and August, 1922, respectively, the trustees conveyed an easement to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company to “construct, reconstruct, repair, operate and maintain its lines for telephone and electric light purposes” and similarly to Union Electric to “keep, operate and maintain its lines consisting of cables, manholes, wires, fixtures and appurtenances thereto.” Subsequently, in 1981 and 1982, defendant exercised licenses acquired from both utilities to enter upon these easements, and erected cables, wires and conduits for the purpose of transmitting television programs.

 

Plaintiffs filed an action for an injunction on December 29, 1983, seeking not only to enjoin a continuing trespass and compel the removal of defendant’s wires and cables, but also seeking $300,000 in damages and the reasonable value of the use of plaintiffs’ property for defendant’s profit based upon quantum meruit. Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action, which was supported by both the affidavit of defendant’s chief executive officer and copies of the easements granted by plaintiffs’ predecessors to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and Union Electric.2 Said motion was sustained by the trial court on July 30, 1984 and this appeal ensued with plaintiffs contending in effect that the easements granted the utilities were not apportionable and did not authorize the right to run television cables over the property in question.

 

Both parties agree that the subject easements are easements in gross, i.e. easements which belong to the owner independently of his ownership or possession of other land, and thus lacking a dominant tenement. See Three-o-Three Investments, Inc. v. Moffitt, 622 S.W.2d 736 (Mo.App.1981); 3 Powell, the Law of Real Property; 34-22 (1984). The dispositive issue here is whether or not these easements are exclusive and therefore apportionable by the utilities to, in this case, defendant Continental Cablevision.

 

We believe the very nature of the 1922 easements obtained by both utilities indicates that they were intended to be exclusive and therefore apportionable. It is well settled that where the servient owner retains the privilege of sharing the benefit conferred by the easement, it is said to be “common” or non-exclusive and therefore not subject to apportionment by the easement owner. Conversely, if the rights granted are exclusive of the servient owners’ participation therein, divided utilization of the rights granted are presumptively allowable. This principle stems from the concept that one who grants to another the right to use the grantor’s land in a particular manner for a specified purpose but who retains no interest in exercising a similar right himself, sustains no loss if, within the specifications expressed in the grant, the use is shared by the grantee with others. On the other hand, if the grantor intends to participate in the use or privilege granted, then his retained right may be diminished if the grantee shares his right with others. Thus, insofar as it relates to the apportionability of an easement in gross, the term “exclusive” refers to the exclusion of the owner and possessor of the servient tenement from participation in the rights granted, not to the number of different easements in and over the same land. Powell at 344-224-25.3

 

Here, there is no claim that plaintiffs’ predecessors had at the time the easements were granted, any intention to seek authority for, or any interest whatsoever in using the five foot strips for the construction and maintenance of either an electric power system or telephone and telegraphic service. Moreover, at no time during the ensuing sixty-three years have the trustees been authorized to furnish such services by any certificate of convenience and necessity issued by the Public Service Commission pursuant to ss 392.260 and 393.170, RSMo.1978. Accordingly, the easements granted to Southwestern Bell and Union Electric were exclusive as to the grantors thereof and therefore apportionable.

 

Plaintiffs also argue defendant could acquire no rights from the utilities since their easements did not mention television cables, and that the cable attachments themselves constituted an extra burden on the property. We disagree. The owner of an easement may license or authorize third persons to use its right of way for purposes not inconsistent with the principal use granted. Eureka Real Estate and Investment Company v. Southern Real E. and F. Company, 355 Mo. 1199, 200 S.W.2d 328, 332 (1947). The 1922 easements granted to Union Electric expressly provided the right of ingress and egress by Union Electric, it successors and assigns, to “add to the number of and relocate all wires, cables, conduits, manholes, adding thereto from time-to-time….” Similarly, the easement conveyed to Southwestern Bell expressly contemplated the construction and maintenance of “all poles, cables, wires, conduits, lateral pipes, anchor guys and all other fixtures and appurtenances deemed necessary at anytime by [Southwestern Bell], its successors and assigns….” It can hardly be said that the addition of a single coaxial cable to the existing poles for the purpose of transmitting television images and sound by electric impulse increases the burden on the servient tenement beyond the scope of the intended and authorized use.

 

Plaintiffs’ reliance on Consolidated Cable Utilities, Inc. v. City of Aurora, 108 Ill.App.3d 1035, 64 Ill.Dec. 464, 439 N.E.2d 1272 (1982) is misplaced. Basing their decision upon the undisputed principle that the owner of property subject to an easement burden is entitled to prevent such burden from being increased, the Illinois court held that landowners were necessary parties to an action by a cable television company against certain utilities seeking a mandatory injunction authorizing the use of the utilities’ easements. In 12 of the subdivisions involved, ordinances required underground installation of public utility equipment. In the absence of homeowner participation in the trial and evidence from them about the exact nature of the easements through their property, the cause was remanded for a more specific delineation of which easements the cable company did or did not have a right to use. Id. 64 Ill.Dec. at 469, 439 N.E.2d at 1277. Obviously, excavation upon a homeowner’s property for the installation of underground cable poses a much greater burden than the attachment of an aerial cable to existing poles.

 

Although this is a case of first impression in Missouri, courts in other jurisdictions have addressed the legal effect of adding coaxial cables for television transmission to existing electric and telephone poles erected on easements without the consent of the owners of the fees. These courts have uniformly rejected arguments identical to those made by plaintiffs herein and have reached a conclusion similar to ours.

 

In Jolliff v. Hardin Cable Television Co., 26 Ohio St.2d 103, 269 N.E.2d 588 (1971), an easement granted to a power company for the transmission of electric power, including telegraph or telephone wires, was held to be an apportionable easement in gross by reason of the express language of the conveyance authorizing the grantee to lease some portion of its interest to third parties. In addressing the question of an additional burden on the servient tenements, the court noted that the attachment of a television coaxial cable to existing poles constituted no more of a burden than would installation of telephone wires, a burden clearly contemplated at the time of the grants. Id. 269 N.E.2d at 591.

 

In Crowley v. New York Telephone Company, 80 Misc.2d 570, 363 N.Y.S.2d 292 (1975) it was held that the failure to make specific mention of cable television in 1949 easement to locate telephone poles and wires on plaintiff’s property could not be so narrowly interpreted as to prohibit the addition of television cables to the telephone poles. “Just as we must accept scientific advances, we must translate the rights of parties to an agreement in the light of such developments.” Id. 363 N.Y.S.2d at 294.

 

In Hoffman v. Capitol Cablevision System, Inc., 52 A.D.2d 313, 383 N.Y.S.2d 674 (1976), the court concluded that the rights granted to two utilities were exclusive vis a vis the landowner, and were, therefore apportionable by the grantees. The addition of cable and equipment to already existing poles was held to constitute no additional burden since the defendant was doing only what the utilities were enabled to do. Id. 383 N.Y.S.2d at 677. The court noted the general rule that easements in gross for commercial purposes are particularly alienable and transferable. See 5 Restatement of the Law, Property s 489. For these reasons, the court held the failure to foresee and specifically refer to cable television in the grant was of no consequence. Id.

 

The reasoning of the Hoffman court has recently been found persuasive by the California court in Salvaty v. Falcon Cable Television, 165 Cal.App.3d 798, 212 Cal.Rptr. 31 (1985). The court stated:

 

 

In the case at bench, the addition of cable television equipment on surplus space on the telephone pole was within the scope of the easement. Although the cable television industry did not exist at the time the easement was granted, it is part of the natural evolution of communications technology. Installation of the equipment was consistent with the primary goal of the easement, to provide for wire transmission of power and communication. We fail to see how the addition of cable equipment to a pre-existing utility pole materially increased the burden on appellant’s property.

 

 

Id. 212 Cal.Rptr. at pages 34-35.

 

The unsurprising fact that the drafters of the 1922 easements did not envision cable television does not mandate the narrow interpretation of the purposes of the conveyance of rights and privileges urged by plaintiffs. The expressed intention of the predecessors of plaintiff trustees was to obtain for the homeowners in the subdivision the benefits of electric power and telephonic communications. Scientific and technological progress over the ensuing years have added an unforeseen dimension to such contemplated benefits, the transmission by electric impulse of visual and audio communication over coaxial cable. It is an inescapable conclusion that the intention of plaintiffs’ predecessors was the acquisition and continued maintenance of available means of bringing electrical power and communication into the homes of the subdivision. Clearly, it is in the public interest to use the facilities already installed for the purpose of carrying out this intention to provide the most economically feasible and least environmentally damaging vehicle for installing cable systems.

 

Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court dismissing plaintiffs’ petition for failure to state a claim is affirmed.

 

 

 

Pudlowski, P.J., and Karohl, J., concur.

 


    1. Defendant has moved to strike from the legal file the indenture of University Park subdivision contending it was not timely presented nor properly identified in the trial court. Plaintiffs have moved to strike from the legal file the copies of the recorded easements of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and Union Electric Company on the grounds they were not authenticated in the trial court. No objection to any of these documents was made in the trial court nor was their consideration by the court complained of by pre or post-submission motion. Objections not presented to and decided by the trial court may not be considered by the appellate court for the first time on appeal. Ohlendorf v. Feinstein, 636 S.W.2d 687, 690 (Mo.App.1982). Both motions are therefore overruled.

 

    1. Because the motion to dismiss was supported by matters outside the pleadings, it should have been treated as a motion for summary judgment. Rule 55.26(a). In view of the fact that plaintiff had ample opportunity from the date the motion was filed on March 5, 1984, until the date the motion was argued and submitted on May 24, 1984, and did file on the latter date a copy of the subdivision indenture, we find compliance with the intent of the rule and decline to remand this cause, sua sponte, for semantical corrections necessitated by the improper denomination of defendant’s motion.

 

    1. A thorough explanation of the rule and its logical foundation is set forth in 5 Restatement of the Law, Property, section 493, Comments c and d.

 

 

 

 


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