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Spectra Site Communications, Inc. v. Lawrence

Supreme Court of Idaho

July 27, 2016

SPECTRA SITE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
DOUGLAS P. LAWRENCE, Defendants-Appellants.

         2016 Opinion No. 85

         Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Steve Verby, District Judge.

         The decision of the district court is affirmed. Costs on appeal are awarded to respondent.

          Clark and Feeney, Lewiston, attorneys for appellant. Jeremy Carr argued.

          James, Vernon & Weeks, Coeur d'Alene, attorneys for respondent. Susan P. Weeks argued.

          W. JONES, Justice

         In an appeal arising out of Kootenai County, Douglas and Brenda Lawrence ("the Lawrences") challenge a district court judgment enjoining them from interfering with, impeding, or preventing Spectra Site Communications, Inc. ("Spectra") from using or maintaining Blossom Mountain Road, which traverses the Lawrences' property. Spectra leases property owned by Robert and Mark Hall (the "Halls") located east of the Lawrence property.

         After a six-day bench trial, the district court held that Spectra had proven that the Halls have an easement implied by prior use and an easement implied by necessity. Accordingly, the district court found that Spectra, as a lessee of the Halls, was entitled to use and maintain Blossom Mountain Road. The district court also awarded Spectra costs and attorney fees. The Lawrences appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the district court erred in finding that the Halls have the easement upon which Spectra's injunctive relief is based.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         1. Factual Background

         All of the property involved in this case is located in Township 50 North, Range 5 West, Boise Meridian, Kootenai County, Idaho. Specifically, the Lawrences and the Halls own property on Blossom Mountain, which is located south of Post Falls, Idaho. The Lawrence property is located in the southeast quarter of Section 21. The Hall property, which Spectra leases, is located in Section 22. Section 21 is directly west of Section 22. Signal Point Road is the only public road that provides access to the private easement road, Blossom Mountain Road. In turn, Blossom Mountain Road provides sole access to all of the property subject to this litigation.

         Both the Lawrence property and the Hall property were once part of a larger tract of land owned by Harold and Marlene Funk (the "Funks"). The Funks purchased their property in 1969, which consisted of land in Section 15, Section 21, and Section 22. In 1975, the Funks sold most of their property to Human Synergistics.[1] Seven sales agreements were recorded reflecting the sale of separate parcels of land in Sections 21, 15, and 22. Each of the seven sales agreements included the following language:

5. Subject to and including an ingress egress easement over this and adjoining property, in Said [sic] Sections 21 and 22 owned by the grantor and including an ingress egress easement over portions of Section 21 heretofore granted to the grantors. Said easement shall be over existing roads until such time as all record owners shall agree to the relocation, improvement and/or abandonment of all or any portions of any roads. This easement is also over similar lands in section 15.

         The relevant chain of title for the Lawrence property is as follows: Funks to Human Synergistics; Human Synergistics to Johnson & McHugh; Johnson & McHugh to National Associated Properties; National Associated Properties to the Farmanians; and the Farmanians to the Lawrences. The relevant chain of title for the Hall property, which is leased to Spectra, is as follows: Funks to Rasmussen and Chamberlain; Rasmussen and Chamberlain to Van Sky; Van Sky to Switzer Communications; Switzer Communications to Term Corp.; and Term Corp. to the Halls.

         2. Procedural Background

         This action first reached the Idaho court system in 2003 when Tower Asset Sub Inc. (Spectra's predecessor in interest and hereinafter "Tower") sought declaratory and injunctive relief after the Lawrences refused to allow it to traverse Blossom Mountain Road. The district court granted Tower summary judgment on its express easement claim, but that judgment was vacated and remanded by this Court. Tower Asset Sub Inc. v. Lawrence, 143 Idaho 710, 715, 152 P.3d 581, 586 (2007) (Tower I). Thereafter, Tower merged with Spectra and renewed its motion for summary judgment on the following three easement theories: (1) easement implied by necessity; (2) easement implied by prior use; and (3) easement by prescription. The district court granted summary judgment on all three theories, which the Lawrences appealed. This Court dismissed that appeal as premature because the district court had not yet entered a final judgment from which an appeal could be taken. Tower Asset Sub Inc. v. Lawrence, 149 Idaho 621, 238 P.3d 221 (2010) (Tower II).

         In 2013, following a six-day bench trial, the district court entered a judgment enjoining the Lawrences from interfering with, impeding, or preventing Spectra, its successors, assigns, agents, servants, contractors, employees or tenants from using or maintaining Blossom Mountain Road. The district court based this judgment on a finding that Spectra proved the existence of an ...


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