Once the point, place or line along which an easement is to be exercised is fixed, whether by express grant or otherwise by agreement or acquiescence, neither of the parties can change the location without the consent of the other. Additionally, although the owner of the dominant estate has the duty to maintain and repair the easement, he cannot make a material alteration in the character of the easement, even though it be more to his convenience to do so, if the alteration places a greater burden upon the servient estate or interferes with the use and enjoyment of the servient estate by its owner.
Plaintiff grantors entered into a written contract for the sale of property, including an island, to defendant grantees. Plaintiffs retained a riparian 10-foot strip which defendants were allowed to use but not improve. The lake surrounding the island belonged to plaintiffs. Defendants were given an easement across a portion of the land to a bridge. The bridge, which provided the only above-water access to the island, was in disrepair, and defendants attempted to repair it. The repairs were unsuccessful, and defendants removed the bridge and constructed a causeway. Plaintiffs brought an action to require defendants to remove the causeway. The trial court denied relief, and plaintiffs appealed. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment.
Were defendant grantees allowed to modify an easement by replacing a bridge with a causeway built on a lake owned by plaintiff grantors?
The trial court erred in refusing to issue a mandatory injunction requiring the removal of the causeway and reconstruction of the bridge. Defendant grantees had the duty to maintain and repair the bridge. By destroying the bridge, defendants materially altered the character of the easement and increased the burden on the servient tenement. Plaintiff grantors were unable to use and enjoy that portion of the lake or lakebed which was previously accessible under the bridge, but which was covered by the causeway.