Woods v. Shannon

Woods v. Shannon, 2015 MT 76 (March 10, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly dismissed servient tenement owners’ claim against dominant tenement owners for injunctive relief on grounds that easement was no longer necessary.

Short Answer: Yes.

Affirmed

Facts: Walter and Nereida Woods bought lot 13 in the Arrow Island subdivision in 2007. Jeff Shannon owns lot 13, which borders lot 12 to the north. Shannon has an easement over Woods’ property, which Woodses claim they were not informed of when they bought their property. In May 2013, the Woodses saw an excavator removing vegetation from the northwest corner of their property, and were told Shannon held an easement and intended to build a driveway.

Upon obtaining a copy of their deed, Woodses saw that it contains an easement for ingress and egress to lot 12. The easement is about 50 feet long and about 70 yards from the Woods’ house. When it was established in 1978, there was no other access to lot 12. A road now provides access to lot 12 from the east. 

Procedural Posture & Holding: Woodses filed a pro se petition for injunctive relief in October 2013, claiming the easement was created by necessity and should be extinguished because it is no longer necessary. Shannon moved to dismiss, claiming the easement was created by an express grant, and Woodses failed to state a claim for relief. The district court granted Shannon’s motion in June 2014, finding the easement was created by an express grant, and was clear and unambiguous. Woodses appeal and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: An easement in writing is an express easement. An easement for ingress and egress is specific. Shannon’s use is within the scope of the easement. Mere nonuse is not sufficient to demonstrate abandonment.