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Henley v. Continental Cablevision of St. Louis County, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. A cable company installed cable wires on a property and was accused of violating an easement for telephone and electric lines.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Easements in gross are interpreted broadly in order to serve the primary goal of the easement.

    Facts. Trustees of a subdivision (Plaintiffs) had the right to grant easements to other parties for the purpose of creating and maintaining electric, telephone and telegraphic service for the lots on the subdivision. Continental Cablevision (Defendant) used a license it received from two utility companies who serviced the subdivision, with easements granted by Plaintiffs, in order to erect cables, wires and conduits for the purpose of transmitting television shows. Plaintiffs seek an injunction.

    Issue. Are the easements granted to utility companies exclusive, and therefore apportionable by the utilities to another utility company?

    Held. Yes.
    The easements in question are easements in gross, which are easements which belong to the owner independently of his ownership or possession of other land, and thus lacking a dominant tenement.
    If the rights granted in an easement are exclusive of the servient owners’ participation, divided utilization of the rights granted are presumptively allowable. This is because when one grants another the right to use the grantor’s land in a particular manner for a specified purpose but retains no interest in exercising a similar right himself, he suffers no loss if, within the specifications expressed in the grant, the use is shared by the grantee with others.
    The owner of an easement may authorize a third party to use its right of way for purposes not inconsistent with the principal use granted. Adding a cable line does not increase the burden on the servient tenement beyond the scope of the intended and authorized use.
    The intention of Plaintiffs predecessors was the acquisition and continued maintenance of available means of bringing electrical power and communication into the homes of the subdivision.

    Discussion. When an easement in gross is exclusive (the grantor has no right to use the easement in conjunction with the grantee), the easement is considered apportionable because the grantee is not interfering with the grantor’s rights.


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