August 28, 2008

Easement reserved on a recorded plat is "express" and does not terminate with the reason for prescription

ERVIN D. SMITH, ET AL. v. PAUL EVANS, ET AL. (Tenn.Ct.App. August, 28, 2008).

Owners of property brought suit to terminate an ingress/egress easement across their land, contending that the necessity for the easement no longer existed. Following a trial, the Chancery Court ruled against the owners, finding that since the easement was reserved in a recorded plat, it was not an easement by necessity; consequently, the easement was not destroyed upon the sale of the dominant estate. On appeal, the owners maintain that the easement was destroyed at the end of the necessity. Finding the easement to be express, we affirm the decision of the Chancery Court. Finding the appeal not to be frivolous, no attorney's fees are awarded.

Opinion may be found at TBA website:

"Mr. Cook retained ownership of a 14.2 acre tract of land immediately behind the lots which fronted on the west side of Sawmill Road (the “Cook Property”). To ensure access to the Cook Property, he reserved a 20 foot ingress/egress easement over lot 5 of the subdivision; this easement was included in the recorded plat and allows access to Sawmill Road." Id.

"An easement by reservation is “in behalf of the grantor [of] a new right issuing out of the thing granted, and an easement appurtenant to the grantor’s remaining land may be created by reservation.” [] Even though an easement by reservation is a separate type of easement, it can still be sub-categorized as being either express or implied. ... An express easement by reservation “arises when a property owner conveys part of his or her property to another, but includes language in the conveyance reserving the right to use some part of the transferred land as a right-of-way.” [] Any reservation of an easement “is equivalent, for the purpose of creation of the easement, to an express grant of the easement by the grantee of the lands.” Id." Id. (citations omitted).

"An easement by express grant can be extinguished: by an act of the dominant owner, either by release or abandonment, by act of the servient owner by prescription or conveyance to a bona fide purchaser without notice, by the conduct of both parties, such as by merger or estoppel, or by eminent domain, mortgage, foreclosure, or tax sale. [] An easement “created by reference to a filed map can be extinguished only by the united action of all lot owners for whose benefit the easement is created...” [] No such measures were taken in this case; indeed, the deed conveying the Cook Property to the Evanses includes the following language ... . The easement was not terminated when the Evanses bought the Cook Property." Id. (citations omitted).