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DeBey v. Schlaefli

Court of Appeals of Kansas

February 15, 2019

Raymond DeBey and Ginger DeBey, Appellees,
v.
James Schlaefli, James F. Schlaefli Trust, Dated 7/1/2001, and Roberta A. Schlaefli Trust, Dated 7/1/2001, Appellants.

          SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. An implied easement by reservation or grant requires several factors. First, a landowner must use his or her land in such a way that part of that land gives a benefit of a continuous, permanent, and apparent nature to another part of his or her land. This is also known as a "quasi-easement." The part of the land giving the benefit is known as the quasi-servient tenement, and the part of the land receiving the benefit is known as the quasi-dominant tenement.

         2. If a landowner sells a quasi-dominant tenement, the quasi-easement then becomes an implied easement and will be retained only if necessary for the reasonable enjoyment of the sold property.

         3. An implied easement by reservation or grant does not require strict necessity. Instead this type of implied easement is based on the intent of the parties and what expectations one party could reasonably foresee the other party had from the sale of the land.

         4. Generally, parties intend to continue using the land in the same way known to them to a considerable degree necessary to the continued usefulness of the land. The parties will be assumed to know and to contemplate the continuance of reasonably necessary uses which have so altered the premises as to make them apparent upon reasonably prudent investigation.

         5. The existence of an implied easement may be voided if it is subsequently overburdened by abnormal development of the quasi-dominant tenement. But an implied easement will be upheld when it is reasonably necessary for the enjoyment of the quasi-dominant tenement.

         6. Courts determine whether an implied easement has been overburdened by reviewing what the parties might reasonably have expected from future uses of the dominant tenement. What the parties might reasonably have expected is to be ascertained from the circumstances existing at the time of the conveyance. It is to be assumed that they anticipated such uses as might reasonably be required by a normal development of the dominant tenement. It is not to be assumed that they anticipated an abnormal development.

         7. Under the doctrine of equitable estoppel, courts may prevent a person from asserting his or her rights against another when the other detrimentally relied upon the voluntary conduct of the person now asserting rights. A party claiming equitable estoppel must show another party, by his or her acts, representations, admissions, or silence when he or she had a duty to speak, induced the claimant to believe certain facts existed. The claimant must also show it rightfully relied and acted upon such belief and would now be prejudiced if the other person were allowed to deny the existence of such facts.

          Appeal from Osborne District Court; Preston Pratt, judge.

          Tish Morrical, of Hampton & Royce, L.C., of Salina, for appellants.

          Paul S. Gregory, of Gregory & Gregory, of Osborne, for appellees.

          Before Schroeder, P.J., Standridge, J., and Walker, S.J.

          WALKER, J.

         James Schlaefli, the James F. Schlaefli Trust, and the Roberta A. Schlaefli Trust (Schlaeflis) appeal the district court's findings that Raymond DeBey and Ginger DeBey (DeBeys), who own property adjacent to Schlaeflis, have easements of various types needed to operate their seed business over Schlaeflis' adjoining land. Because we find that the district court properly applied the law and there is substantial competent evidence supporting the court's findings, we affirm.

         Facts

         This case involves the disputed use of two tracts of property lying along U.S. Highway 24 just outside of and to the east of Downs in Osborne County, Kansas. The parties refer to them as the West tract (currently owned by Schlaeflis) and the East tract (currently owned by DeBeys). Twenty years before inheriting the land, James Schlaefli's father erected a building on the East tract. His father passed away in 2000. James and his brother inherited several pieces of property, including both the West and East tracts, with each owning an undivided one-half. The brothers traded property interests, and James acquired both the West and East tract. James and his wife transferred their ownership interests of the property into their trusts.

         Immediately south of the West and East tracts is Highway 24. North of the two tracts of land is a large water diversion ditch. East of the East tract is additional land purchased by DeBeys from third parties who are not involved in this lawsuit. The West tract contains a house and several other buildings. At the eastern edge of the West tract is a building James used as his shop. Unless James was out of town, he was at his shop most days.

         Highway 24 runs south of the two tracts of land, and there are two driveways. The first driveway is on the western part of the West tract and curves south of the house and James' shop. A dirt path runs from the north part of the tracts a few feet east of his shop. This dirt path then merges with the second driveway.

         The second driveway is the primary source of this controversy. This driveway connects Highway 24 to the south and the dirt path. One branch of it curves west to the first driveway and the other branch curves east to the building James' father erected on the East tract. His father regularly used the second (eastern) driveway to travel from Highway 24 to his building on the East tract. When James inherited both tracts of land, he used the eastern driveway like his father did.

         In 2006, Raymond DeBey rented the building on the East tract to run his bulk seed business close to Highway 24. James allowed Raymond to use the eastern driveway like James and his father had used it. James knew Raymond intended to run his seed business from the East tract. Raymond then bought the East tract from James in 2007 because he did not want to build seed bins on rented property. James also sold Raymond some farm equipment just east of the dirt path, on what both men believed to be the East tract owned by Raymond. Both men believed the two tracts of land were divided by the dirt path.

         In 2007, Raymond built bulk seed tanks just to the east of the building built by James' father. Raymond also built a conveyor belt and other equipment to load seed for his customers. This ...


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