Monday, January 6, 2014

Hillside Development Co. v. Fields case brief

Hillside Development Co. v. Fields case brief summary
928 S.W.2d 886 (1996)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Appellant adjoining landowner sought review of a judgment from the Circuit Court of Platte County (Missouri), which found in favor of respondent corporate property owner in its action for trespass and ejectment concerning a portion of the adjoining landowner's paved driveway that was located on the property owner's land.

CASE FACTS
  • Nelson, on his property, constructed a house and a driveway to connect the house to the only accessible public road. 
  • The garage of the house was located in a way that the driveway had to wrap around the front of the house on the east to the back corner of the house on the north. 
  • On the west side of the house was the septic tank and lines. 
  • Nelson bequeathed this property and the surrounding land to Shriners Hospital. 
  • In 1984 Shriners subdivided the property, selling the undeveloped land to Hillside Development Co. (P), which included all or nearly all of the land on which the driveway was located. 
  • The deed reserved a right-of-way easement for the use of the residential lot and house. 
  • The recorded easement, however, did not match the location of the driveway due to failing to account for a small curved section of the driveway which was located in front of the house. 
  • In 1987, Shriners sold their remaining portion to Fields (D). 
  • The title made a note that the curved portion of the driveway was neither included in the title nor in the express easement. 
  • In 1993, Hillside sued Fields for trespass. 
  • Fields counterclaimed for a declaratory judgment stating that he had an implied easement across the disputed portion of the driveway. 
  • The trial court denied the implied easement and entered judgment for Hillside.

ARGUMENT
The adjoining landowner contended on appeal that the trial court erred in rejecting his argument that he had an implied or "visible" easement on the property owner's land.

DISCUSSION

  • The court agreed with Hillside and reversed the trial court's judgment. 
  • The court concluded that the adjoining landowner had established all four elements for an implied easement: 
  • (1) the driveway constituted an obvious and visible benefit to the residential lot; 
  • (2) it was constructed as a permanent means of access to the adjoining landowner's garage; 
  • (3) was used for many years as access to the garage under unity of ownership prior to the subdivision of the lots; and 
  • (4) was reasonable necessary for the full beneficial use and enjoyment of the premises. 
  • The implied easement arose at the time of severance by the common owner and by definition would not appear of record. 
  • Although the adjoining landowner would not be landlocked without the implied easement, he would not be able to use his garage or his driveway. 
  • In contrast to an easement by necessity that required proof of absolute necessity, to establish an implied easement only required reasonable, not absolute, necessity.
CONCLUSION
The court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

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