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Court upholds injunction in easement case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed judgment in favor of a homeowner who sued neighbors after telephone poles, fence posts, and other objects were placed along a disputed easement area to prevent people from driving along it.

In Ronald N. Rennaker, et al. v. Raymond D. Gleason, No. 92A03-0808-CV-412, the appellate court determined a 40-foot driving easement existed by virtue of the language in deeds conveying lots along Blue Lake. It also upheld the permanent injunction requiring the removal of and prohibiting objects obstructing the easement.

When a portion of land along the lake owned by Frank Harrold was first platted in 1922 it indicated a "30' Drive" that ran between two lots to allow access to the shore. The original lots didn't extend to the lake, but granted homeowners an easement over the property between the lots and the lakeshore. A plat of survey done in 1958 depicted the land along the lakeshore divided into lots corresponding with the width of the original lots, along with a 40-foot wide easement along the shore. Harrold eventually conveyed the lakeside lots to the original owners.

A dispute arose between Ronald Rennaker and other homeowners with another homeowner, Raymond Gleason, as to whether the 40-foot easement was a driving easement. Rennaker and others didn't think so, and placed objects in the way to prevent driving. Gleason filed a complaint and the trial court declared the easement was a valid driving easement and permanently enjoined the homeowners from encroaching or impeding access to it and the 30-foot easement.

The Court of Appeals examined the language in the Lakeside Lot Deeds, which conveyed the lakeside lots to the original owner, and determined the language created the 40-foot driving easement by express reservation.

Rennaker and others claimed the clause "subject to a 40 foot wide public easement for roadway purposes" isn't sufficient to create an express easement by using the phrase "subject to" based on Mayer v. BMR Props. LLC, 830 N.E.2d 971 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005). But the appellate court concluded that Nelson v. Parker, 687 N.E.2d 187 (Ind. 1997), was applicable to the instant case.

"The use of the phrase 'subject to' makes the language regarding the easement ambiguous because this phrase would normally indicate words of qualification in reference to something that has already been created rather than words creating an interest," wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey. "However, the forty-foot easement had yet to be created as the 1958 Plat of Survey did not indicate who received the interest in the easement nor is there any other evidence of a conveyance of an interest in the depicted easement."

The appellate court examined the deeds conveying the original lots, as well as deeds in subsequent additions on the land, and determined Harrold wanted to provide lot owners in any of the additions access to Blue Lake, and the use of "right of way" and "drive over the drive-ways" implies access by vehicles. Also reading the easement provision with the list of other restrictions in the deeds supports the conclusion that "roadway purposes" contemplates a greater burden on the 40-foot easement than just foot traffic, wrote the judge.

The Court of Appeals also upheld the injunction, which Rennaker and others argued was vague and unnecessarily broad. The order mandates removal of any objects that deny or impede access to the easements, so items that need to be cleared are only those that prohibit reasonable passage of vehicles along the easement, wrote Judge Bailey.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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