Cases in Real Estate
is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and
explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for
appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors
and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC
attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and
mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.
Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits
involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title
insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse
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brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.
cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the
principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language
treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and
follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new
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for the Week of February 20th, 2013
Lakefront Homeowners Win
Damages Based on Boat Owner's Interference with Littoral Rights.
Deborah Zeppa owned waterfront property in the Town of Coventry, Connecticut,
part of which was undeveloped and part of which was improved with a single
family home with a dock. Mark Lonabaugh, another resident of Coventry, owned
property that was not lakefront property. Lonabaugh placed a mooring in the
area "waterward" of the Zeppas' property without the Zeppas' permission. (The
word "waterward" means "in the direction of the water.)
The Zeppas complained to
Lonabaugh, who ignored their complaints. Lonabaugh kept his motorboat berthed
to the mooring for four summers.
The dispute between the Zeppas
and Lonabaugh involved littoral rights,
which are the rights concerning properties abutting oceans, seas and lakes.
(Contrast littoral rights with riparian
rights, which refer to rights concerning properties abutting streams and
rivers.) The Zeppas said Lonabaugh's mooring interfered with their property and
littoral rights by: interfering with the casting-off line on their dock and
making it difficult for them to waterski from the shore to avoid Lonabaugh's
boat and people who might be swimming from the boat. They also complained the
mooring had drifted, causing Lonabaugh's boat to drift toward their dock.
The Connecticut court observed
the well-established rule that "an owner of waterfront property, which is
bounded by a body of water, implicitly has littoral rights to the land under
the water..." The scope of the Zeppas' littoral rights were established by an
expert surveyor who had performed hundreds of lakefront surveys, including
surveys of littoral rights.
The surveyor determined the
Zeppas' littoral rights extended 561 feet from the northernmost shore line of
the property and the "thread," with the thread being a point halfway between an
island and the shoreline of the Zeppas' property. The court concluded that Lonabaugh's mooring
of his boats near the Zeppas' dock was an unwarranted interference with their
littoral rights, as it interfered with the Zeppas' right to enjoy fishing,
swimming and boating. Lonabaugh was ordered to pay the Zeppas $600 for each of
the four summers he moored his boat near their property. The court also found
Lonabaugh created a private nuisance and committed intentional trespass on the
Zeppa v. Lonabaugh, 2010 Conn. Super LEXIS 1164 (May 20, 2010) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].
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