June 30, 2008

Court awards sanctions and attorneys fees for intereference with a prescriptive easement

BRUCE WAYNE FERGUSON v. DARRYL SHARP, ET AL. (Tenn.Ct.App. June 30, 2008).

Bruce Wayne Ferguson (“the Plaintiff”) filed this lawsuit after Darryl and Denise Sharp (“the Defendants”) installed a gate on a right-of-way over their land that the Plaintiff utilized to reach his property. The Defendants claimed the gate was necessary for their safe use and enjoyment of their land because the right-of-way area was being subjected to trespassing, vandalism, and theft. The trial court agreed with the Plaintiff that the gate was not necessary and permanently enjoined the Defendants from maintaining it on the right-of-way. The Defendants appeal the judgment of the trial court. We affirm.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

"The preponderance of the evidence presented to the court establishes that the Defendants have utilized their gate in an improper and illegal manner to deny the Plaintiff access to his property and to harass him despite the court order prohibiting these actions by the Defendants. The Plaintiff has an easement by prescription free of the impairment of the easement by the erection of gates." Id.

"This case involved a clear violation of the orders of the trial court. Our review of the record reveals that the Defendants interfered with and denied access by the Plaintiff to his property by use of the easement. The Plaintiff had to file motions requesting that the court find the Defendants in contempt of court. ... The trial court had clear authority to assess attorney’s fees against the Defendants pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-9-105. The award served to compensate the Plaintiff for the loss he sustained as a result of the actions of the Defendants." Id.