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Tressel v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 4, 2018

Gail TRESSEL, Plaintiff-Respondent Cross-Appellant,
v.
Chris WILLIAMS and Linda Carlson, Defendants-Appellants Cross-Respondents.

          Argued and submitted December 12, 2017.

          Josephine County Circuit Court 11CV0517; Thomas M. Hull, Judge.

          George W. Kelly argued the cause and fled the briefs for appellants-cross-respondents.

          Eugene V. Anderson argued the cause for respondent-cross-appellant. With him on the briefs was Davis, Hearn, Anderson & Turner, PC.

          Before Aoyagi, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Hadlock, Judge. [*]

         [291 Or.App. 216] Plaintiff has an express easement to access her property by way of defendants' driveway. Plaintiff fled an action seeking a declaration of the terms and scope of her easement and asserting various other claims. Defendants counterclaimed, also seeking a declaration of the terms and scope of the easement. After a bench trial, the trial court ruled that plaintiff has a valid easement, declared the terms and scope of the easement, and concluded that defendants breached the easement when they erected a fence that blocks a portion of plaintiff's driveway and when they removed an electronic gate at the entrance of defendants' driveway. Defendants appealed, and plaintiff cross-appealed. Held: The trial court did not err, except with respect to the electronic gate. Regarding the gate, plaintiff's easement gives her the right to use defendants' driveway for ingress and egress to her property, but it does not impose an affirmative obligation on defendants to maintain an electronic gate at the entrance of their driveway.

         On appeal, declaratory judgment reversed in part and remanded with instructions to enter judgment declaring the rights of the parties in accordance with this opinion; judgment on plaintiff's breach of easement claim reversed in part; otherwise affirmed. On cross-appeal, affirmed.

         [291 Or.App. 217] AOYAGI, P. J.

         In this dispute between neighbors, plaintiff has an express easement to access her property by way of defendants' driveway. Defendants sought a declaratory judgment regarding the terms and scope of that easement. Plaintiff also sought a declaratory judgment, as well as damages and injunctive relief for breach of easement, interference with irrigation, trespass, and emotional distress. After a bench trial, the court ruled that plaintiff has a valid easement, declared the terms and scope of that easement, and concluded that defendants had breached the easement by blocking a portion of plaintiff's driveway and by removing an electronic gate. The court denied plaintiffs other claims.

         On appeal, defendants raise three assignments of error, and, on cross-appeal, plaintiff raises four assignments of error.[1] Except for defendants' second assignment of error, we reject all of the parties' assignments of error without written discussion. In their second assignment of error, defendants argue that the court erred in concluding that plaintiff's easement includes an affirmative obligation for defendants to maintain an electronic gate at the entrance to their driveway. We agree with defendants as to the electronic gate and therefore reverse and remand on that issue. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment in all respects.

         We set forth the relevant facts in a manner consistent with the trial court's express and implicit factual findings. Manusos v. Skeels, 263 Or.App. 721, 724, 330 P.3d 53 (2014). We also include certain undisputed historical facts from the record.

         Plaintiff owns real property in Grants Pass that was previously owned by her mother, Spickler. Defendants own real property next door that they purchased from a trust of which Spickler was the trustee. We refer to plaintiff's property as the 4963 property and defendants' property as the 4965 property. The two properties are adjacent to one another, and both face the same road. The only [291 Or.App. 218] existing motor vehicle access to plaintiff's property is via defendants' paved driveway. Defendants' paved driveway is 266 feet long and runs near the western edge of defendants' property. Plaintiff has an unpaved U-shaped driveway on her own property that meets defendants' paved driveway at two points-referred to as the "northern leg" and the "southern leg"-approximately 60 feet apart at the eastern edge of plaintiffs property[2] The following is a rough approximation, not to scale, of the layout of the two properties and their relevant features.

         (Image Omitted)

         In August 2007, when the trust still owned the 4965 property, Spickler recorded an easement for the benefit of the ...


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