McNulty v. Casero

Decision Date14 August 2020
Docket NumberCivil Case No. SAG-16-2426
Citation479 F.Supp.3d 200
Parties John S. MCNULTY, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Robert A. CASERO, Jr., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Michael J. Moran, Law Offices of Michael J. Moran PC, Middle River, MD, for Plaintiffs.

Francis J. Collins, Kahn Smith and Collins PA, Baltimore, MD, for Defendants.


Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States District Judge

On May 11, 2020, with the Court's leave, Plaintiffs John and Carolyn McNulty ("Plaintiffs") filed a Second Amended Complaint against Robert Casero and Catherine Mary Hattenburg ("Defendants"). ECF 161; see ECF 160. The Second Amended Complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief stemming from a property boundary dispute between Plaintiffs and Defendants. ECF 161, ¶¶ 41-127. The discovery period has elapsed, and Plaintiffs have filed two motions: a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF 183; and a Motion to Partially Strike Defendants’ Answer, ECF 184, 188. Defendants have opposed both motions, ECF 186, 189, and Plaintiffs replied, ECF 190, 191. Defendants have requested a hearing. ECF 186. This Court finds, however, that the factual and legal issues are adequately presented in the briefs, rendering a hearing unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, PlaintiffsMotion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part, and the Motion to Partially Strike Defendants’ Answer will be denied as moot.


On November 7, 1991, Plaintiffs purchased a parcel of subdivided land from James Cleveland Bates and Regina Bates in Fawn Township, York County, Pennsylvania. ECF 24-2 at 1.1 The southern boundary line of Plaintiffs’ property is measured in relation to the Mason Dixon Line. Id. On April 26, 2010, Defendants purchased a parcel of land known as "2215 Salt Lake Road," in Harford County, Maryland, from Steven and Regina Segall. ECF 24-1. The northern boundary line of Plaintiffs’ property is measured in relation to the Mason Dixon Line. Id. Plaintiffs’ southern property boundary is coterminous with Defendants’ northern property boundary. E.g. , ECF 186-29. Running east to west along that shared boundary line is Salt Lake Road. Id. ; see also ECF 186-31; ECF 186-24 (April, 2015 aerial photo of Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ property). The instant property dispute arose because Plaintiffs asserted that their southern property line extended south of Salt Lake Road, but Defendants asserted that the parties’ shared property boundary (and, by extension, the Mason Dixon Line) laid within the bed of Salt Lake Road. ECF 186-31; ECF 186-32.

Defendants’ predecessors-in-title, the Stegalls, maintained a home in a different location than the home in which Defendants currently reside. ECF 186-22 (March, 2004 aerial photo, showing the Stegalls’ home); ECF 186-24 (April, 2015 aerial photo, showing Defendants’ home in a different location to the southwest). The Stegalls used a concrete driveway that directly accessed Salt Lake Road. ECF 186-22; ECF 186-48 at 31:4-15 (C. McNulty Dep.). Plaintiffs and the Stegalls discussed Plaintiffs’ view that the Stegalls’ driveway was on land encompassed by Plaintiffs’ southern property boundary, but Mr. McNulty told Mr. Stegall that Mr. Stegall had permission to use the driveway. ECF 183-5 at 107:18–111:1. Later, however, the house that the Stegalls inhabited burned down. ECF 186-48 at 31:1–3.

Sometime after Defendants acquired the land, but prior to constructing their home, Dr. Casero and Mr. McNulty discussed the location of their shared property boundary. ECF 186-27 at 35:15–36:6, 36:15–37:20. Mr. McNulty "claimed he owned property on the south side of Salt Lake Road," but Dr. Casero asserted that a survey he had showed that "the Maryland-Pennsylvania border is in the road between our two properties." Id. at 35:19-36:4. Even in the face of the survey Dr. Casero had, Mr. McNulty "did not agree" with Dr. Casero's assertion, and Dr. Casero likewise disagreed with Mr. McNulty. Id. at 37:1–11. In Dr. Casero's words, "that disagreement started there and continues to this day." Id. at 37:5–6.

No later than June 25, 2013, Defendants constructed a driveway on their property that directly links their newly constructed house to Salt Lake Road. ECF 186-13 (June 25, 2013 inspection report from Harford County, Maryland Government inspector); ECF 186-24; ECF 186-37 (street-level photo of Defendants’ driveway). Later, in April, 2014, and again in December, 2014, Defendants twice removed a fence that existed on lands lying south of Salt Lake Road. See, e.g. , ECF 183-5 at 124:19-125:13 (J. McNulty Dep.) (testifying that Mr. Casero came to him and apologized for tearing down the fence in April, 2014); ECF 186-27 at 14:14-15:7, 16:15-21, 117:20-118:5 (Casero Dep.) (corroborating the April, 2014 incident; noting that the McNultys thereafter placed a second, orange, temporary fence in its place; and admitting to tearing that second fence down in December, 2014); ECF 186-35; ECF 186-36 (pictures of the old fence). Then, on April 1, 2015, Defendants executed a Confirmatory Deed to themselves, indicating that the northern border of their property "lies on and through" Salt Lake Road. ECF 18-4 at 1.

Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants in this Court on June 28, 2016. ECF 1. Plaintiffs asserted a host of tort claims, including trespass, continuing trespass, nuisance, continuing nuisance, conversion, and slander of title, as well as claims to quiet title, for ejectment, and for a declaratory judgment. Id. ¶¶ 31-116. Plaintiffs sought compensatory damages, special damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief. Id.

On September 3, 2016, the parties submitted a Joint Status Report to the presiding judge, United States District Judge J. Frederick Motz, requesting a scheduling conference and asking the Court to "allow for an early motion for summary judgment, prior to discovery," but indicating Plaintiffs’ desire to file an Amended Complaint. ECF 7, ¶¶ 4-5. Judge Motz thereafter held a scheduling conference and issued a Scheduling Order setting both a November 2, 2016 deadline for Plaintiffs to amend their Complaint, and a November 16, 2016 deadline for Defendants to file either a "motion to dismiss or an answer and motion for summary judgment." ECF 9. Defendants filed a "Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint and/or for Summary Judgment" on November 15, 2016. ECF 14. Plaintiffs filed a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment on December 5, 2016. ECF 17; ECF 18.

On January 5, 2017, Judge Motz issued a Memorandum Opinion ("the Opinion") granting PlaintiffsCross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and denying DefendantsMotion for Summary Judgment, "on the issue of liability." ECF 22-1 at 1. The Opinion addressed the parties’ arguments as to the "proper placement of the Mason-Dixon line." Id. at 1-2. After considering the case Maryland v. West Virginia , 217 U.S. 1, 30 S.Ct. 268, 54 L.Ed. 645 (1910), Judge Motz concluded that the Caseros’ efforts to distinguish it were not "meaningful." Id. at 2. Judge Motz reasoned that "Maryland has recognized the originally surveyed Mason-Dixon Line for over 250 years, and it has recognized that Salt Lake Road falls within the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania." Id. The Caseros moved for reconsideration of Judge Motz's Opinion, ECF 24, and to strike the Opinion, ECF 43. Judge Motz denied both motions. ECF 27 (denying the Motion for Reconsideration); ECF 54 (denying the Motion to Strike). The import of Judge Motz's ruling, this Court has explained, is that "[t]he McNultys own the disputed portions of land that lie south of Salt Lake Road." ECF 119 at 9. Mr. Thomas Farcht, a licensed surveyor with over forty years of experience in his field, avers that, in accordance with this ruling, Plaintiffs’ southern property boundary is

depicted with the bearing of S 89 degrees 49 minutes 01 seconds W from the southeastern corner of the McNulty property and extends 434.72’ to the southwestern property corner of the McNulty property, as is shown on Exhibit No. 2 being the same as the southern boundary of the McNulty property as depicted on a plat entitled "Final Subdivision Plan James C. and Regina M. Bates, dated 27 December 1990" and being the same as the southern boundary of the McNulty property as depicted on a plat entitled "Final Subdivision Plan for James C. Bates" approved by the Township on 11 February 2012.

ECF 183-1, ¶ 14; see also ECF 183-2; 186-8 (the December 27, 1990 Bates Subdivision Plan).

On May 11, 2020, with this Court's leave, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint. It asserts the following causes of action: (1) declaratory judgment, (2) ejectment, (3) quiet title, (4) adverse possession (in the alternative), (5) trespass, (6) "continuing trespass (fence removal)," (7) "continuing trespass (driveway)," (8) "continuing nuisance (fence removal)," (9) "continuing nuisance (driveway)," and (10) slander of title. ECF 161, ¶¶ 41-127. Notably, Plaintiffs have eliminated all claims for damages and attorneys’ fees; the only remedies sought are a declaratory judgment settling the property dispute and an injunction that requires removal of Defendants’ driveway from Plaintiffs’ land. Id.


Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate only "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material facts. See Casey v. Geek Squad , 823 F. Supp. 2d 334, 348 (D. Md. 2011) (citing Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props. , 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987) ). If the moving party establishes that there is no evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to proffer specific facts to show a genuine issue exists for trial. Id. The...

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