Brown v. Gaskins, 0337

Citation284 S.C. 30,324 S.E.2d 639
Decision Date23 October 1984
Docket NumberNo. 0337,0337
CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
PartiesKenneth D. BROWN, Respondent, v. Russell GASKINS, Appellant. . Heard

J. Wesley Crum of Crum, Crum & Crum, Denmark, for appellant.

W.D. Rhoad, Bamberg, for respondent.


In this action for an injunction against and damages for trespass, the issue raised is whether respondent Kenneth Brown, owner of a servient estate, may place a gate across an easement and require appellant Russell Gaskins, owner of the dominant estate, to open and close the gate as a condition of passage. The master in equity to whom the case was referred with finality held that the servient estate could burden the dominant estate with the gate. We agree and affirm.

Russell Gaskins owns property adjacent to the Edisto River to which he gains access by way of a road which runs from a highway across Kenneth Brown's property to the Gaskins property. Gaskins was granted an easement of ingress, egress and regress over the road by Brown's predecessor in title. Brown and his father have vacation houses on the back of their property and a stand of Christmas pines on the front of the tract.

When the Browns began to experience problems with trespassers who vandalized and littered their property and broke into and stole from their homes, they erected a gate across the entrance of the roadway leading to both Gaskins's and their own houses. Gaskins did not object to the erection of the gate and was given a key to the gate which was kept locked. The littering and vandalism stopped.

About a year later, however, Gaskins decided the gate was an inconvenience and began leaving it wide open. He testified that his friends had difficulty visiting him when the gate was locked and that his parents had been inadvertently locked in when he left them at his house. Brown asked Gaskins to keep the gate locked but Gaskins refused. Lockouts by both parties occurred as hostilities grew.

Brown initiated this action against Gaskins in November, 1981, for damages caused by Gaskins's trespass and for an injunction prohibiting Gaskins from leaving the gate unsecured, locking Brown out and trespassing on Brown's land. Gaskins counterclaimed for damages for Brown's obstruction of Gaskins's use of his easement over Brown's property.

The master held first that Brown's erection of the gate across the easement was proper and did not unreasonably interfere with Gaskins's use of the easement. The master then found that he was unable to determine on the evidence presented whether a locked gate as opposed to a closed gate was necessary for the protection of Brown's property. He therefore ordered Gaskins to close the gate after entering onto or leaving the road. Brown was ordered to refrain from locking the gate until he established that a locked gate was necessary to protect his property. Gaskins appealed.

Gaskins concedes the general rule is that the owner of the servient estate may erect gates across an easement if they (1) are so located, constructed and maintained as not to unreasonably interfere with the right of passage of the dominant estate, (2) are necessary for the preservation of the servient estate, and (3) are necessary for use of the servient estate. See Watson v. Hoke, 73 S.C. 361, 53 S.E. 537 (1906); Jennings v. Jennings, 104 S.C. 242, 88 S.E. 527 (1916); 28 C.J.S. Easements Section 98 (1941). He contends, however, the evidence adduced by Brown falls short of establishing that these factors are present in this case.

With respect to the first factor, unreasonable interference with the right of passage, Gaskins contends first that the owner of a servient estate as a matter of law may not erect a gate as a mere obstruction to the travel of people, as opposed to farm animals, and second, that Brown's gate as a matter of fact unreasonably interferes with the right of passage of Gaskins, his relatives and friends.

Gaskins relies on Owens v. Cantrell, 219 S.C. 433, 65 S.E.2d...

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8 cases
  • Faulkenberry v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., 25454.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • April 29, 2002
    ...of the land except such as might be made consistent with the reasonable enjoyment of the easement). See also Brown v. Gaskins, 284 S.C. 30, 33, 324 S.E.2d 639, 640 (Ct.App.1984).6 AFFIRMED. TOAL, C.J., MOORE, BURNETT and PLEICONES, JJ., concur. 1. It is undisputed that construction of Railr......
  • Tanaka v. Sheehan
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • April 12, 1991
    ...Co., 76 Colo. 106, 118, 230 P. 386, 391 (1924); Mann v. Phelps, 269 Ky. 493, 496, 107 S.W.2d 288, 290 (1937); Brown v. Gaskins, 284 S.C. 30, 32, 324 S.E.2d 639, 640 (Ct.App.1984); Wykoff v. Barton, 646 P.2d 756, 758 (Utah 7 At oral argument appellants' counsel advised that the record was co......
  • Ballington v. Paxton
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • June 9, 1997
    ...for the preservation of the servient estate, and (3) are necessary for the use of the servient estate." Brown v. Gaskins, 284 S.C. 30, 33, 324 S.E.2d 639, 640 (Ct.App.1984); accord Watson v. Hoke, 73 S.C. 361, 53 S.E. 537 (1906); Davis v. Epting, 317 S.C. 315, 454 S.E.2d 325 (Ct.App.1994), ......
  • Jowers v. Hornsby, 22735
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • April 8, 1987
    ...Causey, 284 S.C. 339, 326 S.E.2d 412 (Ct.App.1985); Marlow v. Marlow, 284 S.C. 155, 325 S.E.2d 703 (Ct.App.1984); Brown v. Gaskins, 284 S.C. 30, 324 S.E.2d 639 (Ct.App.1984). Many prior cases issued by this Court treat the existence of an easement as a question of law. Merrimon v. McCain, 2......
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