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Francini v. Goodspeed Airport, LLC

Appellate Court of Connecticut

April 5, 2016

WILLIAM FRANCINI
v.
GOODSPEED AIRPORT, LLC, ET AL

         Argued October 20, 2015.

Page 1279

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1280

          Action for, inter alia, a judgment declaring an easement by necessity over certain property owned by the named defendant, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, where the plaintiff withdrew certain counts of his amended complaint; thereafter, the court, Aurigemma, J., granted the named defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the count of the amended complaint seeking an easement by necessity and rendered judgment thereon; subsequently, the plaintiff withdrew the remaining count of the amended complaint, and appealed to this court.

          SYLLABUS

         The plaintiff enjoyed a right-of-way easement over the defendant's property. The plaintiff, whose house was powered by a generator, commenced this action seeking a declaratory judgment that he had an easement by necessity for access to commercial utilities across the same right-of-way. The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, concluding that easements by necessity may not be granted for any purpose other than to provide physical access to landlocked property. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that this court should recognize an easement by necessity to provide access to commercial utilities because access to utilities supplies something that his highly convenient and beneficial to the use of property. Held that the trial court improperly granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, that court having incorrectly concluded, as a matter of law, that an easement by necessity may be granted to a landlocked parcel only for the purpose of ingress and egress: this court concluded that property landlocked from commercial utilities may receive an easement by necessity to access utility services, and because electricity is essential to daily life and is reasonably required to make effective use of property, the plaintiff's easement by necessity here included not only physical access to his landlocked property, but also access to utilities; the two legal justifications underlying easements by necessity supported extending the doctrine of easement by necessity to include access to utilities for properties landlocked from them, as utilities are so obviously necessary for the reasonable use and enjoyment of all types of property that the law will assume that parties to a land conveyance intend to convey whatever is necessary to ensure a property's access to utilities, and public policy dictates that access to utilities be implied to ensure that no land is left incapable of being put to profitable use; moreover, the finding of an implied easement by necessity for utilities was compelling here where the plaintiff's property already enjoyed a right-of-way across the defendant's property under a general right-of-way without limitation, the easement would not overburden the defendant's property, and the facts alleged in the complaint indicated that the operation of a generator was not a reasonable substitute for commercial electricity.

         Jonathan D. Chomick, for the appellant (plaintiff).

         John R. Bashaw, with whom was Mary Mintel Miller, for the appellee (named defendant).

         DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Lavery, Js. LAVERY, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

          OPINION

Page 1281

          [164 Conn.App. 280] LAVERY, J.

          The plaintiff, William Francini, appeals from the trial court's judgment granting the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant Goodspeed Airport, LLC.[1] On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly granted the motion for summary judgment as a matter of law because the court wrongly concluded that an easement by necessity may be granted only to provide physical access to a landlocked parcel and not for the purpose of installing commercial utility lines. Although the issue of whether an easement by necessity is reserved only for physical access to a landlocked parcel is one of first impression for this court, we recognize that this issue has been squarely addressed by many of our sister states and by a federal [164 Conn.App. 281] magistrate judge in this state. We conclude that the court incorrectly concluded, as a matter or law, that an easement by necessity may be granted to a landlocked parcel only for the purpose of ingress and egress. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court.

         The following facts, as alleged by the plaintiff and admitted by the defendant, are not in dispute for the purpose of this motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff owns a parcel of land in East Haddam. The parcel's only access to a public highway is over an abutting property, owned by the defendant. The defendant took title to its property by warranty deed in 1999, subject to a right-of-way easement now enjoyed by the plaintiff as well as several of the plaintiff's neighbors, landowners who also own land abutting the defendant's property. The 1999 warranty deed expressly described the right-of-way, in general terms and without limitations on its use, by providing for " [s]uch rights as others may have to a Right of Way over a passway or driveway as set forth in a deed from [the property's prior owner], dated August 16, 1963 and recorded in Volume 77 at Page 526 of the East Haddam Land Records . . . ."

         In 2001, the defendant entered into an agreement with several of the plaintiff's neighbors, who also share the plaintiff's right-of-way across the defendant's property, to allow the neighbors to improve the right-of-way by installing and maintaining a utility distribution system under the existing right-of-way easement. As a result, a commercial utility system was constructed under the existing right-of-way and now provides electricity to the plaintiff's neighbors. In exchange for this utility easement, each of the plaintiff's neighbors paid the defendant $7500. The plaintiff offered to pay the defendant the same $7500 that his neighbors had paid for use of the utility easement, but the defendant requested that the plaintiff not only pay the $7500, but also grant it the power to move the location of the [164 Conn.App. 282] easement at will. The plaintiff declined the additional terms and the two parties never reached an agreement. Without an agreement, the plaintiff does not enjoy an easement for commercial utilities and his property is currently landlocked from access to commercial electricity. Currently, the plaintiff's house is powered by a ...


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