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Beckerman v. Conant

Supreme Court of Maine

July 6, 2017

PETER M. BECKERMAN
v.
RICKY CONANT et al.

          Argued: May 9, 2017

          Catherine R. Connors, Esq. (orally), and Jared S. des Rosiers, Esq., Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland, for appellants Ricky and Monica Conant.

          Alton C. Stevens, Esq. (orally), Marden, Dubord, Bernier & Stevens, P.A. LLC, Waterville, for appellee Peter M. Beckerman.

          Panel: SAUFLEY C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] Ricky and Monica Conant appeal from a judgment entered by the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Wheeler, J.) following a three-day nonjury trial, finding that Peter M. Beckerman has a deeded right-of-way across their property over the existing paved driveway. On appeal, the Conants argue that the court erred in finding that (1) a deeded right-of-way exists over their property and (2) the right-of-way is located over their paved driveway. We affirm the judgment.[1]

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] After considering all of the evidence presented during trial, the court made the following findings, all of which are supported by evidence in the record. Peter M. Beckerman owns a waterfront lot (the "Beckerman lot") on Great Pond in Rome. Ricky and Monica Conant own an abutting waterfront lot (the "Conant lot"). Ricky Conant also owns a second lot-abutting the Conant lot-located between the Beckerman lot and a private access road called South Crane Lane. That second lot is rented to its former owners, Bruce and Cynthia Pooler (the "Pooler lot").

         [¶3] Before June 5, 1975, the Beckerman lot, the Conant lot, and the Pooler lot were all owned by Nettie and Edwin Pooler. The Beckerman lot had been acquired from Anthony and Violet Dulac in September 1971. On June 5, 1975, Nettie and Edwin conveyed the Pooler lot to Bruce and Cynthia Pooler. Three years later, on December 14, 1978, Nettie conveyed the Beckerman lot to Willard and Elizabeth Haskell. Given the location of the Pooler lot, the newly created Beckerman lot did not have access to South Crane Lane. The 1978 deed conveying the Beckerman lot to the Haskells included the following language:

Together with a right-of-way as now used and laid out, in common with others, to pass and repass to said premises, and subject to the obligation of the Grantees herein, along with other cottage owners in the area, to share in seasonal road maintenance.

         [¶4] The Haskells subsequently conveyed the Beckerman lot to Beckerman on September 2, 1988. Nettie Pooler conveyed the Conant lot to Rodney Pooler in 1998, who then conveyed the lot to the Conants on August 8, 2005. Ricky Conant acquired the Pooler lot in 2010 and has been renting it to Bruce and Cynthia Pooler.

         [¶5] In 2000, Beckerman filed a complaint against Bruce, Cynthia, Rodney, and Nettie Pooler seeking to establish the location of the boundaries among their properties. The parties entered into a consent order, in 2002, that granted Beckerman a right-of-way over the Pooler lot from his lot to South Crane Lane. Beckerman filed a motion for contempt on July 16, 2012, alleging that the Poolers and Conants were in violation of that consent order. Following an April 2014 hearing, by order dated May 21, 2014, the court [Wheeler, J.) denied that motion. We affirmed that denial but vacated a separate portion of the court's order.[2] See Beckerman v. Pooler, 2015 ME 80, ¶15, 119 A.3d 74.

          [¶6] Also on July 16, 2012, Beckerman filed the complaint underlying this appeal, seeking a declaratory judgment that he has a right-of-way over the Conant lot by deed or, in the alternative, by prescriptive easement. The complaint also sought an injunction preventing the Conants from interfering with his right-of-way over the Conant lot.

         [¶7] The Conants counterclaimed, asserting one count of statutory nuisance pursuant to 17 M.R.S. § 2701 (2016), one count of common law nuisance, and one count of trespass. The Conants later moved to dismiss their trespass claim, which the court granted on December 10, 2012.

         [¶8] A three-day nonjury trial was held on November 23-25, 2015.[3] By a judgment dated May 12, 2016, the court found that Beckerman had a deeded right-of-way over the Conant lot, and it apparently determined that the right-of-way existed over the Conants' paved driveway.[4] The court also (1) issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the Conants from interfering with that right-of-way, (2) denied the Conants' nuisance counterclaims, and (3) found that any claim about whether the Conants had a right-of-way over the Beckerman lot ...


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