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ZR Management, LLC v. Nawrot

Superior Court of Maine, Waldo

May 1, 2019

ZR MANAGEMENT, LLC Plaintiff
v.
ALLAN NAWROT, et al Defendants

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

         A trial on the pending Complaint and Counterclaim was held before the Court on December 21, 2018. Subsequent to the trial, the parties filed written Closing Arguments and Reply memoranda for the Court's further consideration.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff owns a parcel of real estate on Route 1 in Lincolnville, Maine. The defendants own an adjacent parcel also with frontage along Route 1 in Lincolnville. Each of the adjacent parcels owned by the parties in this case had previously been a single parcel owned by a common grantor (The First, N. A.) which conveyed the parcels to these parties.

         The plaintiff owns and operates a commercial inn on its parcel along Rt. 1. The defendant's parcel, located to the west of the plaintiffs parcel along Route 1, includes a right-of-way along a gravel roadway (Ballou Drive) that continues along the western border of the defendants' parcel and which benefits one or more parcels to the north of the defendants' parcel which are owned by various nonparties to this action (the Ballou property owners). The plaintiff has no deeded right of access to Ballou Drive.

         Several hundred feet north of the intersection of Route 1 and Ballou Drive is the beginning of a pathway leading through the woods from the right-of-way across the defendants' parcel to the plaintiffs parcel ending in an area behind the plaintiffs inn. The rights and usage of this back pathway is at the center of the dispute as to all claims in the pending Complaint and Counterclaim.

         The plaintiff acquired its interest in its parcel through a series of conveyances by a deed initially dated October 26, 2012 and subsequently by two additional corrective deeds dated January 24, 2013 and November 7, 2013. In none of these deeds was the plaintiff granted an express easement to generally utilize the back pathway to gain access to the back of its inn property.[1]

         The defendants' parcel was acquired pursuant to a deed issued by the common grantor (The First, N.A.) on April 5, 2013. The defendants' deed, in addition to the easement described in Note 1 below, conveyed a right-of-way interest along Ballou Drive to the Ballou property owners north of the defendants' parcel, but granted no such rights to the plaintiff. In fact, a separate Road Maintenance Agreement and Confirmatory Easement was also signed on or about April 5, 2013 and recorded at the same time as the defendants acquired their deed. The plaintiff is not a signator to the Road Maintenance Agreement and Confirmatory Easement, and acquired no rights or entitlement to use the right-of-way along Ballou Drive.

         At various times subsequent to both parties having acquired their respective interest in their parcels, the plaintiff, or entities providing services for the plaintiffs inn, utilized the Ballou Drive right-of-way and the back pathway across the defendants' parcel to gain access to the rear portion of the plaintiffs inn.[2] Initially, some of the plaintiffs use of the area near or along the back pathway was authorized by the defendants. After the relationship between the parties soured, the defendants unsuccessfully attempted to block the plaintiffs usage of the back pathway by erecting various obstacles, such as signage, brush and sawhorses which were removed by the plaintiff. Ultimately, the defendants placed large boulders at the entrance to the back pathway along the Ballou Drive right-of-way. Since the placement of the large boulders, the plaintiff has been unable to utilize the back pathway.

         ANALYSIS

         Count 1 of the plaintiffs Complaint asks the Court to recognize the existence of an implied easement for use of the back pathway over the defendants' parcel. Count 2 of the Complaint alleges that the defendants' interference with the plaintiffs use of the back pathway constitutes a nuisance which entitles the plaintiff to an award of damages and recovery of their attorney's fees. Finally, Count 3 claims the defendants trespassed on the plaintiffs property and, accordingly, seeks recovery of damages.

         The defendants' Counterclaim seeks, in Count 1, a declaratory judgment confirming the plaintiff has no easement rights over the back pathway on the defendants' parcel. Count 2 of the Counterclaim alleges that the plaintiffs conduct in its use of the back pathway constituted a private nuisance for which the defendants are entitled to an award of damages. Finally, Count 3 alleges the plaintiffs conduct constituted statutory and common law trespass for which the defendants are entitled to an award of damages.

         In none of the three deeds conveying the plaintiffs interest did the plaintiff acquire any general right to the usage of the back pathway for access to its property. The conveyance to the defendants from the original grantor also did not convey any express easement interest for the benefit of plaintiff except for the specific easement described in Note 1 above.

         Given the access the plaintiff has to its parcel along Route 1, no claim of an implied easement by necessity can be successfully asserted. Plaintiff claims, nonetheless, that it is entitled to an implied easement by a prior quasi-easement. The Law Court in Northland Realty, LLC v. Crawford, 2008 ME 92 addressed the issue of an implied easement by a prior quasi-easement. Specifically, that Court held,

the creation of an implied easement by a prior quasi-easement depends on both a pre-existing use of the land and the intent of the grantor at the time of conveyance. [Internal citation omitted]. An implied ...

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