Law School Case Brief
Berg v. Ting - 125 Wash. 2d 544, 886 P.2d 564 (1995)
To comply with the statute of frauds, a contract or deed for the conveyance of land must contain a description of the land sufficiently definite to locate it without recourse to oral testimony, or else it must contain a reference to another instrument which does contain a sufficient description. However, in the case of an easement, a deed of easement is not required to establish the actual location of an easement, but is required to convey an easement which encumbrances a specific servient estate. The servient estate must be sufficiently described.
Plaintiffs Norman and Marjorie Berg (the Bergs) and Defendants Robert and Kathy Ting (the Tings) were owners of adjacent waterfront parcels on Lake Washington in Seattle. The Bergs brought an action to quiet title to an easement across the Tings' property. The grant of an easement attempted to describe the subservient estate by reference to a future document that did not exist until almost four years later, and the description was not accurate. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Tings on the basis that the grant of easement did not comply with the statute of frauds, and was void and unenforceable. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that although the grant of easement did not comply with the statute of frauds, it was enforceable under the doctrine of part performance.
- Did the grant of easement comply with the statute of frauds?
- If the easement did not comply with the statute of frauds, was it nevertheless enforceable under the doctrine of part performance?
The Supreme Court of Washington reversed the appellate court’s decision and reinstated the summary judgment in favor of Defendant Tings. The Court held that the grant of the easement did not comply with the statute of frauds because the description of the subservient estate was inadequate. Further, the requisites of the doctrine of part performance had not been met, and, thus, it did not apply to take the grant of the easement out of the statute of frauds. The Court found no evidence of fraud on the Tings' part, noting particularly that the Bergs' attorney drafted the grant of the easement. The Court reinstated the award of costs and attorney fees to the Tings.
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