Law School Case Brief
McCumbers v. Puckett, 2009-Ohio-4465 - 183 Ohio App. 3d 762, 918 N.E.2d 1046
An "easement" is a property interest in the land of another that allows the owner of the easement a limited use of the land in which the interest exists. An easement has also been defined as a right that the owner of one estate, referred to as the "dominant estate," may exercise for his benefit in or over another's estate, referred to as the "servient estate." An easement can be created by an express or implied grant, by prescription, or by estoppel.
Roger McCumbers and his wife, Nancy McCumbers, owned real property located in the village of Good Hope in Fayette County, Ohio. Gary Puckett and his wife, Deborah Puckett, owned the real property immediately south of the McCumbers' property, as well as the strip of land in question that ran along the eastern boundary of the McCumbers' property and extended to the Pucketts' property. In 1979, the Pucketts installed a gravel driveway on the strip. In 2004, Gary Puckett agreed to build a new garage for the McCumbers for $3000. The garage was to be located along the eastern boundary of the McCumbers’ property and adjacent to the paved driveway on the Pucketts’ strip of land. In 2006, a dispute arose between the parties that led to Gary Puckett threatening to fence in the McCumbers by erecting a fence along the paved driveway to deny them access to their new garage. Subsequently, the McCumbers filed a complaint alleging that they had obtained an easement over the driveway on the Pucketts’ strip of land because the McCumbers and their predecessors in title have used this portion of the Pucketts' property in an "open, notorious and continuous" manner since, at least, 1963. The trial court issued a decision finding against the McCumbers on their claim for adverse possession, but for them on their claim for an easement by estoppel. The Pucketts appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in in finding that an easement by estoppel was created by the actions of Gary Puckett.
Did the adjacent neighbors obtain an easement by estoppel over the property owners' land?
The Court held that an easement by estoppel existed as the evidence showed that the Pucketts (the servient owners) permitted the McCumbers (the dominant owners) to expend money to construct a new garage adjacent to the driveway on the servient owners' strip of land and that the dominant owners acted in reasonable reliance on their belief that they would have a right to use the driveway as a way of ingress and egress to their garage. The Court noted that Gary Puckett, one of the servient owners himself, completed construction on 80 to 90 percent of the garage.
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