Mason v. Garrison, No. 99-056.

Docket NºNo. 99-056.
Citation998 P.2d 531, 299 Mont. 142, 2000 MT 78
Case DateMarch 23, 2000
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

998 P.2d 531
2000 MT 78
299 Mont. 142

Wade and Carol MASON, husband and wife; Neal F. and Juliane S. Ketcher, husband and wife; K.R. and Donna J. Goble, husband and wife; Elizabeth A. McGregor and David A. Cerotzke; Dennis H. McDowell and Jodee McDowell, husband and wife; David W. Kellogg, Trustee of the David W. Kellogg Revocable Living Trust, UAD; Hollister A. Larson, individually and as the personal representative of the Estate of Jean Elizabeth Larson; Jacob L. Kuykendall, Jr., and Susan M. Kuykendall, husband and wife, Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants/Respondents,
v.
Greg GARRISON, Defendant/Counter-Claimant/Appellant

No. 99-056.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs August 5, 1999.

Decided March 23, 2000.


998 P.2d 533
John R. Gordon, Reep, Spoon & Gordon, Missoula, Montana, For Appellant

Gary R. Christiansen, Warden, Christiansen, Johnson & Berg, Kalispell, Montana, For Respondent.

Justice WILLIAM E. HUNT, Sr. delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Greg Garrison (Garrison) appeals from the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, concerning the scope of an easement across Garrison's lakefront lot for the benefit of specified lot owners in the Crag Moor Subdivision along Flathead Lake. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

¶ 2 We consider four issues, restated as follows:

¶ 3 (1) Did the District Court err by expanding the scope of the easement beyond the express terms of the grant?

¶ 4 (2) Did the District Court err in awarding the Lot Owners the right to repair or rebuild a dock on Lot 4?

¶ 5 (3) Did the District Court err in determining that the Lot Owners have a right to use the south access road across Lot 5?

¶ 6 (4) Did the District Court err in ordering Garrison to remove his fences and gardens and to restrain his dogs from interfering with the use of the easement?

Factual and Procedural Background

¶ 7 Crag Moor is a platted subdivision located on Hughes Bay along the west shore of Flathead Lake at the very south end of Flathead County, Montana. Most of the subdivision was purchased around 1960 by a partnership, Crag Moor Investments, which included Plaintiff Hollister A. Larson (Larson). The portion of Crag Moor purchased by the partnership consisted of some nineteen to twenty lots containing about 2,000 feet of lakeshore. The lots purchased by the partnership had never sold because much of the lakeshore was so steep that the lake was practically inaccessible from many of the lots. The partnership felt that if access to Flathead Lake were provided over Lots 3 and 4 for the benefit of Lots 5 through 19, then the lots would be marketable. Thus, beginning in 1969, an easement was included in each of the deeds for Lots 5 through 19 of Block 1 of the Crag Moor Subdivision. At the time of trial, each of the Plaintiffs-Respondents (the Lot Owners) owned one or more of the lots benefiting from the easement.

¶ 8 Prior to including the easement in the respective deeds, the partnership leveled a portion of Lot 4 between a rocky bluff and the lakeshore, widened existing roads so that boats could be trailered to the lake and launched, created a parking area for vehicles, and constructed a dock and swim deck for recreational purposes. The roadways that were improved by the partnership consisted of both a "north access" road, which has been primarily used by the Lot Owners when coming from Kalispell to the easement area, and a "south access" road that has been primarily utilized by the Lot Owners when traveling from their lots to the lakeshore.

¶ 9 The easement in the deeds to Lots 5 through 19 of Crag Moor provides as follows:

TOGETHER WITH a perpetual easement over and across the existing roadways on
998 P.2d 534
Lots 3 and 4 of Block 1 of said Crag Moor (excepting private driveways) for ingress and egress to and from Flathead Lake and the perpetual right and easement to use the existing dock, parking lot, swimming areas and swimming deck thereon, which easement is not exclusive but must be exercised with respect to the rights of other persons lawfully using said lands and facilities.

¶ 10 The "Lots 3 and 4 of Block 1" referred to in the easement were eventually resurveyed and the subdivision plat was amended (Amended Lots 3 and 4). When Amended Lot 4 was sold to Garrison's predecessor in interest, the legal description specifically made the conveyance "subject to" the terms of the easement. In 1992, Garrison purchased Amended Lot 4 and a portion of Lot 2 of Block 1 of Crag Moor with actual knowledge that Amended Lot 4 was subject to the easement. Garrison also owns Lots 5 through 9 of Block 1 of Crag Moor, which benefit from the easement.

¶ 11 Amended Lot 3 is presently owned by Arlen D. Steiner (Steiner), who is not a party to this action. Part of the easement is located on Amended Lot 3. The "swimming deck" described in the easement was located in the water adjacent to Amended Lot 3 but, in 1979, was destroyed by the owner of the Lot at that time. In 1988, a boat dock was erected on Amended Lot 3 in much the same location as the old swimming deck by Steiner's predecessor in interest. The "dock" referenced in the easement existed in the water adjacent to Amended Lot 4 until 1985, when it was severely damaged by a storm. Sometime after the storm, the then-owner of Amended Lot 4 bulldozed the remains of the dock and torched them. That dock was never replaced but its "footprint" remains visible in the water today.

¶ 12 In 1990, moreover, Garrison's predecessor in interest constructed a new dock on Amended Lot 4 in somewhat the same location as the previous boat dock that had been destroyed. Garrison's predecessor in interest also constructed a large pole gate at his driveway entrance, and the poles were located in the middle of the south access road. Although the poles have remained in that location since erected, the Lot Owners have routinely passed around the poles in continuing to use the south access road to reach the lakefront.

¶ 13 When the easement was created, the lakeshore area on Amended Lot 4 was pebbles or gravel. A boat launch was never constructed by the partnership on Amended Lot 4. However, the sloping, pebbly shoreline enabled the Lot Owners to put in small boats and take them out in the easement area. In the "parking lot" described in the easement there was at one time a picnic table which had been placed there by the partnership. Over the years, the parking area was used for parking and turning vehicles around, as well as for picnics, camping, and other lake-related recreational purposes by the Lot Owners.

¶ 14 In 1995, Garrison constructed two raised gardens in the parking area because, according to him, it is the area of his property that receives the most sunshine. Garrison has also placed fences across the north and south roadways used by the Lot Owners, as well as a fence that runs along the shoreline and encloses much of the parking area. Additionally, Garrison has allowed his six German Shepherd dogs to run loose in the easement area, and their aggressive behavior has prevented some of the Lot Owners from peaceably accessing the lakeshore.

¶ 15 The District Court found that the easement was created to provide the Lot Owners with an area to access Flathead Lake for swimming, boating, and other lake-related recreational activities. The court further found that Garrison's gardens, fences, and dogs unreasonably obstructed and interfered with the Lot Owners' use of the easement, and that there were alternative means of fencing Garrison's property and dogs that would neither interfere with the easement area nor deny Garrison reasonable use of his property. Thus, the District Court ordered Garrison to remove his gardens and fences from the easement area, and to restrain his dogs from interfering with the Lot Owners' use of the easement.

998 P.2d 535
Standard of Review

¶ 16 We review a district court's findings of fact to determine whether they are clearly erroneous, giving due regard to the opportunity of the court to judge the credibility of the witnesses. Public Lands Access Ass'n, Inc. v. Boone & Crocket Club Found., Inc. (1993), 259 Mont. 279, 283, 856 P.2d 525, 527 (quoting Rule 52(a), M.R.Civ. P.). A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is not supported by substantial evidence, if the court has misapprehended the effect of the evidence, or if a clear and definite mistake has been made. Garrison v. Averill (1997), 282 Mont. 508, 516, 938 P.2d 702, 707 (citing Schaal v. Flathead Valley Community College (1995), 272 Mont. 443, 446-47, 901 P.2d 541, 543); see also Interstate Production Credit Ass'n v. DeSaye (1991), 250 Mont. 320, 323, 820 P.2d 1285, 1287. We review a trial court's conclusions of law to determine whether they are correct. See Steer, Inc. v. Department of Revenue (1990), 245 Mont. 470, 474-75, 803 P.2d 601, 603.

Discussion

¶ 17 (1) Did the District Court err by expanding the scope of the easement beyond the express terms of the grant?

¶ 18 The District Court found that the "easement as originally written and created. . . does not necessarily restrict the uses to which the areas may be put, except to the extent that the uses must be reasonably necessary and convenient for the purposes for which the easement was created." The court thus concluded that the Lot Owners have a "perpetual easement over the servient tenement owned by Garrison for all uses reasonably necessary, convenient and incident to enjoyment and use of the easement in accordance with the purpose for which it was created."

¶ 19 Section 70-17-106, MCA, which governs how a servitude is to be construed, provides that "[t]he extent of a servitude is determined by the terms of the grant . . . by which it was acquired." Section 70-17-106, MCA. Garrison asserts that the District Court erred as a matter of law in failing to recognize that the servitude in question here is a specific, granted easement...

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17 practice notes
  • Musselshell Ranch Co. v. Seidel–joukova, No. DA 10–0349.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • August 31, 2011
    ...of an easement must not “ ‘interfere with reasonable use of the right-of-way.’ ” Engel, ¶ 50 (emphasis added). See also Mason v. Garrison, 2000 MT 78, ¶¶ 47–49, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531 (fences and garden beds “materially” and “unreasonably” interfered with dominant owners' easement righ......
  • Meine v. Hren Ranches, Inc., DA 19-0622
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 10, 2020
    ...by which it was acquired"); O'Keefe v. Mustang Ranches HOA , 2019 MT 179, ¶¶ 33-34, 396 Mont. 454, 446 P.3d 509 ; Mason v. Garrison , 2000 MT 78, ¶ 47, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531 ; Tungsten Holdings, Inc. v. Kimberlin , 2000 MT 24, ¶ 40, 298 Mont. 176, 994 P.2d 1114, overruled on other gro......
  • Beattie v. STATE EX REL. GRDA, No. 91,359.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • January 15, 2002
    ...limited by the right of the easement holder to use the easement in a manner consistent with its intended purpose. Mason v. Garrison, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531, 540 (2000). See also JOHN E. CRIBBET, PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF PROPERTY 344 (2nd ed.1975). The most common type of easement is th......
  • Earl v. Pavex, Corp., No. DA 12–0466.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 12, 2013
    ...v. Bush, 237 Mont. 265, 268–69, 773 P.2d 718, 721 (1989); Gabriel v. Wood, 261 Mont. 170, 177, 862 P.2d 42, 46 (1993); Mason v. Garrison, 2000 MT 78, 149, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531. In the present case, Tongue River Farms granted an easement 30 feet in width over land now comprising Tract......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • Musselshell Ranch Co. v. Seidel–joukova, No. DA 10–0349.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • August 31, 2011
    ...of an easement must not “ ‘interfere with reasonable use of the right-of-way.’ ” Engel, ¶ 50 (emphasis added). See also Mason v. Garrison, 2000 MT 78, ¶¶ 47–49, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531 (fences and garden beds “materially” and “unreasonably” interfered with dominant owners' easement righ......
  • Meine v. Hren Ranches, Inc., DA 19-0622
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 10, 2020
    ...by which it was acquired"); O'Keefe v. Mustang Ranches HOA , 2019 MT 179, ¶¶ 33-34, 396 Mont. 454, 446 P.3d 509 ; Mason v. Garrison , 2000 MT 78, ¶ 47, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531 ; Tungsten Holdings, Inc. v. Kimberlin , 2000 MT 24, ¶ 40, 298 Mont. 176, 994 P.2d 1114, overruled on other gro......
  • Beattie v. STATE EX REL. GRDA, No. 91,359.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • January 15, 2002
    ...limited by the right of the easement holder to use the easement in a manner consistent with its intended purpose. Mason v. Garrison, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531, 540 (2000). See also JOHN E. CRIBBET, PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF PROPERTY 344 (2nd ed.1975). The most common type of easement is th......
  • Earl v. Pavex, Corp., No. DA 12–0466.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 12, 2013
    ...v. Bush, 237 Mont. 265, 268–69, 773 P.2d 718, 721 (1989); Gabriel v. Wood, 261 Mont. 170, 177, 862 P.2d 42, 46 (1993); Mason v. Garrison, 2000 MT 78, 149, 299 Mont. 142, 998 P.2d 531. In the present case, Tongue River Farms granted an easement 30 feet in width over land now comprising Tract......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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