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Scott v. Watson Development Corporation

A-0782-04T5 (N.J. Super App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

EASEMENTS—A landowner cannot unreasonably interfere with the rights of an easement holder, nor change the character of the easement to make it significantly more difficult or burdensome on the easement holder.

Owners of adjoining parcels of land entered into an agreement whereby each owner granted an easement to the other. The rear parcel had no street access. So, the easement granted to the owner of the rear parcel provided ingress and egress over the front parcel to the street. The front parcel did not have access to the municipality’s water and sewer systems. The easement granted to the owner of the front parcel provided access into the second parcel for purposes of connecting to the municipality’s water and sewer systems. The agreement prohibited the owner of the front parcel from constructing any improvements over that utility easement. The owner of the front parcel constructed a driveway and pillars over the ingress/egress easement that it had granted to the rear parcel.

A dispute arose over the construction and placement of the driveway and pillars. Both owners filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Affidavits were submitted in support of each motion. The lower court, finding no facts in dispute, granted the summary judgment motion of the owner of the rear parcel and ordered the owner of the front parcel to remove the driveway and pillars from the ingress/egress easement. The owner of the front parcel appealed.

Citing to the affidavits in support of the cross-motions for summary judgment, the Appellate Division found disagreement between the two landowners as to where the owner of the front parcel was permitted to construct its driveway and other improvements. In the easement agreement, both the utility agreement and the ingress/egress agreement were referred to as an “access easement.” The agreement prohibited construction of improvements on an “access easement,” but did not specify to which easement this prohibition applied. The Appellate Division found the owner of the front parcel believed this prohibition only applied to its utility easement, and further found the owner of the rear parcel believed this prohibition applied to its ingress/egress easement. Finding a factual dispute, the Appellate Division ruled that summary judgment was inappropriate. Holding that a landowner can not unreasonably interfere with the rights of an easement holder, nor change the character of the easement to make its use significantly more difficult or burdensome, the Appellate Division ruled that a trial had to be held to determine the rights of each easement holder.


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