Boynton v. Buchanan

Decision Date03 March 1982
Citation12 Mass.App.Ct. 822,429 N.E.2d 365
PartiesRobert F. BOYNTON, executor, et al. 1 v. Edward S. BUCHANAN et al. 2
CourtAppeals Court of Massachusetts

Alan Altman, Wilmington, for plaintiffs.

Marshall F. Newman, Boston, for Leo H. Swartz.

Robert Avrom Goldberg, Newton Center, for Thomas Robinson, submitted a brief.

Peter S. Terris, Boston, and David R. Rodgers, Newton, for Edward S. Buchanan, submitted a brief.

Before GREANEY, PERRETTA and KASS, JJ.

KASS, Justice.

Judgment entered in the Land Court against the defendants, Donald R. Stivaletta and Leo H. Swartz, ordering payment of $15,000 on account of damages resulting from disruption of an easement and ordering restoration of that easement so that it could again be used by the plaintiffs. Cross appeals have been filed: (1) by the plaintiffs because judgment was not entered against the two remaining defendants, Edward S. Buchanan and Thomas Robinson; and (2) by the defendant Swartz on the ground that the evidence did not support compensatory damages or restoration of the easement.

The judge made detailed findings, which shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Mass.R.Civ.P. 52(a), 365 Mass. 816 (1974). Building Inspector of Lancaster v. Sanderson, 372 Mass. 157, 160-161, 360 N.E.2d 1051 (1977). C.C.& T. Constr. Co. v Coleman Bros. Corp., 8 Mass.App. 133, ---, Mass.App.Ct.Adv.Sh. (1979) 1527, 1529, 391 N.E.2d 1256.

1. Buchanan. Although Buchanan was a party to a joint venture for the development of certain land in Newton, there was evidentiary support for the judge's finding that Buchanan abandoned the venture by selling all his interest to the trustees of the Esty Farm Estates Trust (Trust). Of that trust Buchanan was neither a trustee nor a beneficiary. The evidence did not compel a finding that the Trust was a sham. Compare Lawless v. Melone, 350 Mass. 440, 442-443, 214 N.E.2d 881 (1966). Buchanan appears to have had no share in the profits of the development nor joint interest in particular assets. Air Technology Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 347 Mass. 613, 625, 199 N.E.2d 538 (1964). Eastern Elec. Co. v. Taylor Woodrow Blitman Constr. Corp., --- Mass.App. ---, --- - ---, Mass.App.Ct.Adv.Sh. (1981) 110, 114-117, 414 N.E.2d 1023. His role as president of the savings bank which financed construction undertaken by the Trust did not make Buchanan a joint venturer with the Trust, Patriot Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. CFC Inv. Co., --- Mass.App. ---, ---, Mass.App.Ct.Adv.Sh. (1981) 1001, 1004, 420 N.E.2d 918, although it gave him some control over the application of loan funds.

2. Robinson. Robinson was a contractor hired by the Trust to finish road work in the Trust's subdivision in accordance with a subdivision plan approved by the planning board of the city of Newton. The judge found that Robinson performed his work in "exemplary fashion" and that he acted as "the agent of the Esty Farms Estate Trust ... under their direction." His status as an agent does not insulate Robinson from liability for obstructing the plaintiff's easement, a right of way, even though he acted "in accordance with the instructions of his principal, the Trust." Restatement, Agency §§ 343 and 348A (1958). See Somers v. Osterheld, 335 Mass. 24, 28, 138 N.E.2d 370 (1956). Cf. Coe v. Ware, 271 Mass. 570, 573, 171 N.E. 732 (1930); Maxwell v. Ratcliffe, 356 Mass. 560, 562-563, 254 N.E.2d 250 (1969).

It is not clear from the judge's findings whether his conclusion that Robinson was not liable to the plaintiffs was also based on a determination that the obstacles to use of the plaintiffs' easement existed before Robinson began his work. There is evidence in the record that certain grade changes and the placement of obstructing granite curbs and rubble had occurred earlier. Clarification of the judge's findings on this issue is necessary.

3. Damages. On appeal, the defendant Swartz first challenges that portion of the judgment which requires him and his codefendant to pay $15,000 in damages as compensation for disruption of a water line running to the plaintiffs' property and for blocking the plaintiffs' right of way. It is not at all clear how the judge arrived at his figure of $15,000. There was evidence that before the disruption of the water line, the plaintiffs' house had been rented for $315 per month and that after the disruptions, the house became unrentable. The judge found the water service had been cut off in 1977. This would have justified the judge in concluding that there was some forty-eight months of lost rent, a figure which would approximate $15,000. The lessened rental value of the plaintiffs' property while the injury continued is the appropriate measure of damages-assuming the injury, here the disruption of the easement, is ultimately to be remedied. Sturtevant v. Ford, 280 Mass. 303, 317-318, 182 N.E. 560 (1932). Belkus v. Brockton, 282 Mass. 285, 288, 184 N.E. 812 (1933). While it would have been better if the judge had not left us to speculate as to how he calculated the compensatory damages, we are not inclined to disturb his determination since there is some basis in the record for it.

The second part of the judgment offered the plaintiffs an election: (1) to insist on restoration of the right of way to a condition which makes it passable; or (2) to take an easement for a right of way for all purposes in the new roads which the Trust built in connection with...

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    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • August 11, 1997
  • Wellesley Conservation Council, Inc. v. Pereira
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • August 10, 2020
    ...560 (1932) (plaintiff entitled to recover compensatory damages for wrongful interference with easement); Boynton v. Buchanan, 12 Mass. App. Ct. 822, 824-825, 429 N.E.2d 365 (1981) (awarding $15,000 for disruption of easement and ordering restoration or substitution of easement). Compare Mot......
  • Hahn v. Planning Bd. of Stoughton
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • October 1, 1987
    ...standing to prevent obstruction of the easement will have ample opportunity to protect their rights. See Boynton v. Buchanan, 12 Mass.App.Ct. 822, 824, 429 N.E.2d 365 (1981). There is here no showing in the record of a violation of either the letter or the spirit of the board's regulations.......
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    ...v. Saline Sewer Co., 628 S.W.2d 697 (Mo.App.1982) (reduction in rental value of the easement owners' property); Boynton v. Buchanan, 12 Mass.App. 822, 429 N.E.2d 365 (1981) (lessened rental value of the easement owners' property while the injury continued); Schmidt v. Parker Land & Cattle C......
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