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Thomas Crellin Manning and v. William J. Campbell

January 25, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Ada County. The Hon. Ronald J. Wilper, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eismann, Justice.

2012 Opinion No. 21

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

This is an appeal from a judgment holding that property owners could not relocate or change the dimensions of an easement for a driveway crossing their property to adjoining property where relocating the easement as proposed would cause injury to the adjoining property and where there is no evidence that the existing location and dimensions of the driveway differ from those established by the prior owners of both properties when the driveway was constructed. We affirm the judgment of the district court.


Factual Background

In 1952, Paul and Mary Boyd owned a parcel of residential property located at the terminus of 21st Street, a north-south public street that ended at the southern boundary of their property. The Boyds had constructed a paved driveway that connected to the end of the street at about its middle and extended north to a carport on their property. Adjoining the Boyd property to the west was a residential parcel owned by Frank and Ida Mattison. In order to access the street from their property, the Mattisons purchased an easement across the Boyds' property. The written easement agreement provided as follows:

That Paul S. Boyd and Mary M. Boyd in consideration of $112.50, lawful money of the United States, to them in hand paid by Frank N. Mattison and Ida Grace Mattison, do hereby grant unto Frank N. Mattison and Ida Grace Mattison, for all ordinary purposes a right to use the driveway jointly with Paul S. Boyd and Mary M. Boyd, the same including all rights of ingress and egress over the same, the said driveway running and leading from the end of North 21st street of the city of Boise, Idaho, in a northerly and southerly direction, far enough to allow the said second parties herein to enter upon their premises, which adjoin the premises of the first parties on the East side of said premises.

The parties shall be entitled to use the driveway in common, and the expense of constructing and maintenance of said driveway shall always be equally borne by both the parties hereto. Should the land subject to this right of way ever cease to be used as a driveway, then in such a case, the full right and title shall revert to the present owners or their successors in title.

In 1993, William Campbell and his then wife acquired the Mattison property to which the easement was appurtenant. Such property is now owned by Mr. Campbell and his mother, Naomi Campbell. When Mr. Campbell acquired the property, one portion of the driveway on the Boyd property went straight north from the end of the street into a carport attached to the east side of the house on the Boyd property. Another portion curved to the right (east) generally in a northeast direction and connected to the driveway on the Campbell property, which led to the garage on the north side of the house. On the north side of that part of the driveway on the Campbell property was a graveled area that the Campbells used for additional parking and for turning vehicles around. The width of the Boyd driveway where it connected to the end of the street was essentially the same width as the paved portion of the street, as was the width of the driveway leading to the Campbell property.

In 2006, Benjamin and Emily Schwartz acquired the Boyd property. They tore down the carport and added onto the house. They built a detached, two-car garage south of the house and west of the driveway, and they changed the west side of the driveway so that after driving onto the property from the street, one could turn left (west) about ninety degrees and drive to the new garage.

In October 2008, Thomas and Julie Manning purchased the property from the Schwartzes. They wanted to change or eliminate the driveway that leads to the Campbell property, and, when the Campbells would not agree, the Mannings filed this lawsuit on April 17, 2009. The Mannings sought a declaratory judgment holding that the written agreement between the Boyds and the Mattisons only granted a revocable license. If that failed, they asked for a declaratory judgment that they were entitled to relocate the easement pursuant to Idaho Code section 55-313. Prior to trial, the district court ruled that the agreement granted an easement, not a revocable license. The parties then tried the right of the Mannings to relocate the easement under section 55-313 and, if they could not relocate it, the right to reduce its width from 12.3 feet to 9 feet.

At the point where the existing driveway enters the Campbell property, the northern edge of the driveway is about 55 feet north of the southeast corner of the Manning property and the southern edge is about 33 feet north of the corner.*fn1 The Mannings submitted two proposed relocations of the ...

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