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Granite Properties Limited Partnership v. Manns

    Brief Fact Summary. Granite Properties Limited Partnership (Plaintiff) brought suit against Larry and Ann Manns (Defendants) to permanently enjoin Defendants from interfering with the use of two driveways to which Plaintiff claims easements.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An easement may be implied by prior use even if the conveyor of a parcel, which was once contiguous, is the claimant of the easement.

    Facts. An apartment complex and a shopping center are situated on Plaintiff’s property. One driveway connects the rear of the shopping center to a public road and runs partly across Defendant’s land. The other driveway connects the apartment complex’s parking lot to another public road and also runs partly across Defendant’s land. [note: page 518 of the text contains an extremely useful diagram of the properties in question as they relate to one another]. The Plaintiff and its predecessors in title owned the entire parcel from 1963 until 1982 when a parcel situated behind the grocery store and between the grocery store and the apartment complex was sold to Defendants by warranty deed. Thus, the Plaintiff owns parcels that lie on opposite sides of the parcel owned by Defendants. The Defendant’s parcel remains undeveloped, but both of the Plaintiff’s properties (apartment complex and grocery store inside shopping center) were developed prior to Defendant’s deed. The first claimed easem
    ent allows access to the rear of the shopping center. The rear of the shopping center is used for deliveries, trash storage and pick-up, and utilities repair. Trucks use a gravel driveway, which runs along the lot lime to gain access to the shopping center. A second portion of that driveway allows trucks space to circle the shopping center rather than trying to turn around in the limited space behind the shopping center. The grocery store owner testified that an average of 10 to 12 trucks per day use the driveway behind the store to make deliveries and that it would be difficult for a truck to turn around in the rear of the store. The owner of the store also testified that it would be very difficult and disruptive to make front door deliveries insofar as the pallets and forklifts could not operate in such a space. The other easement claimed by Plaintiff, is a driveway that leads into the parking area of the apartment complex owned by Plaintiffs, which cuts across a small panhandle on
    the corner of Defendants’ lot. A witness for the Plaintiff testified that it would be dangerous to the tenants if the Plaintiff was forced to build driveways between the apartment complex buildings. The lower court granted an easement as to the apartment complex driveway, but denied an easement as to the shopping center driveway. The intermediate appellate court held that Plaintiff was entitled to easements over both driveways.

    Issue. Should the Plaintiff be allowed to claim the easements as arising by implied reservation from prior usage, even though the Plaintiff sold the land upon which the easements is claimed?

    Held. Yes. Judgment of intermediate appellate court affirmed.
    The court noted that there are two types of implied easements, the easement by necessity and the easement implied from pre-existing use. The court found that the easement by necessity was inapplicable here. The easement implied from pre-existing use or “quasi easement” arises when three elements are met: 1) common ownership of the claimed dominant and servient parcels (undivided ownership prior to partial conveyance) and a subsequent conveyance separating that ownership; 2) before the conveyance or transfer severing the unity of title, the common owner used part of the united parcel for the benefit of another part; and 3) the claimed easement is necessary and beneficial to the enjoyment of the parcel conveyed or retained by the grantor or transferor.
    The court found that in an easement implied from pre-existing use, proof of prior use is evidence that the parties probably intended an easement, where there is a presumption that the grantor and the grantee would have intended to continue an important and necessary use of the land which is known, and continuous and permanent in nature. This is distinguished from the case of an easement by necessity where there is no requirement to prove knowledge of a pre-existing use.
    The court cites the Restatement of Property sec. 474 (1944), which describes that easements may arise from an inference of the intention of the parties, and cites eight important circumstances from which such inference of intention may be drawn: 1) whether the claimant is conveyor or conveyee; 2) the terms of the conveyance; 3) the consideration given for it; 4) whether the claim is made against a simultaneous conveyee; 5) the extent of necessity of the easement to the claimant; 6) whether reciprocal benefits result to the conveyor and conveyee; 7) the manner in which the land was used prior to its conveyance; and 8) the extent to which the manner of prior use was or might have been known to the parties.
    The Defendants claim that two factors are against the Plaintiff’s claims for easements: 1) that the Plaintiffs are the conveyors; and 2) that the easement cannot be termed as necessary to the beneficial use of the Plaintiff’s properties. The court found that the fact that Plaintiffs were the conveyors to be no bar against an implied easement. The court found that the strong evidence of the Plaintiff’s prior use of the claimed easements provided strong evidence of the necessity of such easements to the Plaintiff’s continued enjoyment of their property. Thus, the easements will be implied in favor of the Plaintiffs and the Defendants will be permanently enjoined from interference with the Plaintiff’s possessory right thereto.

    Discussion. This case should be closely read insofar as it contains an excellent discussion of an implied easement.


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