A court applies basic principles of contract construction and interpretation when considering an express easement's terms. The contracting parties' intentions, as expressed in the grant, determine the scope of the conveyed interest. When the grant's terms are not specifically defined, they should be given their plain, ordinary, and generally accepted meaning. An easement's express terms, interpreted according to their generally accepted meaning, therefore delineate the purposes for which the easement holder may use the property. Nothing passes by implication except what is reasonably necessary to fairly enjoy the rights expressly granted. Thus, if a particular purpose is not provided for in the grant, a use pursuing that purpose is not allowed. If the rule were otherwise, then the typical power line or pipeline easement, granted for the purpose of constructing and maintaining a power line or pipeline across specified property, could be used for any other purpose, unless the grantor by specific language negated all other purposes.
Appellee property owners sued appellant cable company for negligence and trespass for installing cable lines on their property without their consent. In 1939, the owners' predecessors in interest granted to an electric cooperative an easement that allowed the cooperative to use the property to maintain an electric transmission or distribution line or system. The cooperative assigned its rights in the easement to a company that in turn assigned those rights to the cable company. The company claimed it had an easement, and, moreover, it was entitled to place its lines on the owners' property. The trial court granted the company summary judgment. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth District of Texas reversed. On appeal, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed.
Does an easement that permits its holder to use private property for the purpose of constructing and maintaining "an electric transmission or distribution line or system" allow the easement to be used for cable-television lines?
The supreme court noted that, under Texas law, nothing passed by implication except what was reasonably necessary to enjoy the rights expressly granted in the easement. Therefore, the supreme court would not interpret the easement's reference to "electric transmission line" to include cable-television lines. The company also claimed that § 181.102, which granted cable-television providers the right to use "utility easements," allowed them to install the lines on the owners' land. The supreme court held that § 181.102 covered only utility easements that were dedicated to public use, and did not apply to the private easement at issue.