JOAN UZDAVINIS, et al. Plaintiffs,
DEBORAH J. WAGEMANN, et al. Defendants.
E. Walker, Justice
complain that Defendants' installation of a dock in a
lake at the end of a shared right-of-way, and storage of
boats within the right-of-way, are unreasonable interferences
of their co-tenant easement rights. Defendants seek a
determination of the use and scope of the right-of-way.
Evidence germane to the resolution of these issues were
presented to the court in a nonjury trial on January 30 and
31, 2017. Several weeks after trial, the parties hied
proposed finding of facts and conclusions of law.
careful consideration of the evidence, the court makes
certain findings of fact and renders judgment as set forth
Joan Uzdavnis, Mary Malandrino, Thomas D. Boody, and Maureen
D. Boody are owners of lake-front lots on Thompson Lake,
Oxford, Maine, (Pl's' Ex. 16, 23-24), and they have
the right to use a 30-foot right-of-way abutting their
properties that runs between a private road and Thompson
Lake. Plaintiffs Sean Reardon, Karen C. Reardon, and Anne B.
Turner as Trustee of the Owen Family Irrevocable Trust Dated
April 25, 2008, and Defendants Deborah J. Wagemann, Diane L.
Page, and Douglas O. Wiles own non-waterfront lots,
(Pl's' Ex. 15, 19-22) with rights to the same
right-of-way based on language in their deeds "to use
the said passageway to the shore and to use the shore
fronting on the same for bathing and boating purposes."
2014, Defendants placed a 4-foot wide dock at the end of the
right-of-way at the edge of the shore fronting, which has
been used by Defendants to tie their pontoon boat on an
unrestricted basis during the summer months. Defendants did
not obtain the permission to install the dock from other
holders of the easement.
Interference with cotenants' rights
Interference with use
holder of an easement has the right to do what is reasonably
necessary for the enjoyment of the easement. 28A C.J.S.
Easements §§ 144, 161. However, if the
holder of an easement in common uses that easement in such a
manner as to unreasonably interfere with the rights of
another holder of the same easement, the latter is entitled
to relief. Poire v. Manchester, 506 A.2d 1160, 1163
(Me. 1986); 86 C.J.S. Tenancy in Common § 17.
Reasonable use is a question of fact. Poire, 506
A.2d at 1163. All cotenants should have adequate access and
opportunity to use the easement. Indermuehle v. West
Shore Rd. Improvement Ass'n, Inc., No. CV-86-142,
1987 Me. Super. LEXIS 146, at *9 (May 22, 1987). The
appropriate inquiry is a comparison of the actual use made by
one easement holder to the actual use made by the others, and
the court may consider the surrounding circumstances in its
determination of what is reasonable. Poire, 506 A.2d
at 1163 (the invitation of outside guests to use a beach
shared by tenants in common was unreasonable where it led to
overcrowding and hostile confrontations); 28A C.J.S.
Easements § 161; Chase v. Eastman, No.
85-562, 1988, Me. Super. LEXIS 212, at *3-4 (Aug. 29, 1988)
(the addition of a dock in a reserved shorefront area was an
unreasonable interference where it would have been in the
sole area left for non-boating activities.)
of the passageway
argue that Defendants' boat storage in the passageway
unreasonably interferes with their use of the passageway.
(Pl's' Post-Trial Br. 14.) A right-of-way/passageway
allows the holder to pass or cross, and the right of ingress
and egress is the right to pass over, not control. 28A C.J.S.
Easements §§ 8(a), 144;
Ballentine's Law Dictionary (copyright 2010),
available at LEXIS ("passageway.").
However, an easement providing a right-of-way may be found to
support other uses besides passage, depending on its purpose.
See Badger v. Hill, 404 A.2d 222, 226-228 (Me. 1979)
(a dock was permissible at the end of a right-of-way to a
river given its purpose to provide access to the river.)
Plaintiffs concede that boat storage "may very well be
within the scope of the common easement." But,
throughout the boating season,  Defendants have stored canoes,
kayaks, a 19V⅛-foot wellcraft, and an 18-foot pontoon
boat in the right-of-way. Plaintiff Reardon testified that he
has ceased to launch his pontoon boat from the passageway
because of the stored boats (and dock), and Plaintiffs
Uzdavinis and Boody testified that the boat storage
interferes with their lateral access to the passageway from
the sides of their properties. Plaintiff Uzdavnis testified
that the reduced width of the right-of-way affects her
ability to install and retrieve her dock between ...