Brown v. Voss

105 Wash. 2d 366, 715 P.2d 514 (1986)

 

RULE:

If an easement is appurtenant to a particular parcel of land, any extension thereof to other parcels is a misuse of the easement.

FACTS:

In 1952, the predecessors in title of parcel A granted to the predecessor owners of parcel B a private road easement across parcel A for "ingress to and egress from" parcel B. Defendants acquired parcel A in 1973. Plaintiffs bought parcel B on April 1, 1977, and parcel C on July 31, 1977, but from two different owners. Apparently, the previous owners of parcel C were not parties to the easement grant. When plaintiffs acquired parcel B a single-family dwelling was situated thereon. They intended to remove that residence and replace it with a single-family dwelling which would straddle the boundary line common to parcels B and C. Plaintiffs began clearing both parcels B and C and moving fill materials in November 1977. Defendants first sought to bar plaintiff's use of the easement in April 1979 by which time plaintiffs had spent more than $ 11,000 in developing their property for the building. Defendants placed logs, a concrete sump and a chain link fence within the easement. Plaintiffs sued for removal of the obstructions, an injunction against defendant's interference with their use of the easement and damages. Defendants counterclaimed for damages and an injunction against plaintiffs using the easement other than for parcel B. The trial court found (1) that there was no significant increase in the traffic along the easement as a result of Brown’s acquisition of Parcel C, (2) that Parcel C would be landlocked if access to it through the easement on Parcel A were prohibited, which would hamper Brown’s enjoyment of his land, and (3) that any order prohibiting Brown from using the easement to get to Parcel C would be impractical and unenforceable. The court ruled in favor of Brown and ordered that he be permitted to use the easement to access Parcels B and C. The Court of Appeals reversed, and Brown appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington.

ISSUE:

Was an easement holder's use of the easement to access an after-acquired adjacent parcel misuse where the use was for the same purpose and would not increase the burden on the servient tenament?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Under the express language of the 1952 grant, plaintiffs only have rights in the use of the easement for the benefit of parcel B. Although, as plaintiffs contend, their planned use of the easement to gain access to a single-family residence located partially on parcel B and partially on parcel C is perhaps no more than technical misuse of the easement, we conclude that it is misuse nonetheless.

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