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Thurlow v. Hulten

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 6, 2017

LUTHER E. THURLOW ET AL.
v.
LEE ANN HULTEN ET AL. LEE ANN HULTEN ET AL.
v.
LUTHER E.THURLOW ET AL.

          Argued March 21 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Complex Litigation Docket, Bright, J.

          Richard S. Cody, with whom, on the brief, was Jon B. Chase, for the appellants-appellees (plaintiffs in the first case, defendants in the second case).

          Michael S. Bonnano, for the appellees-appellants (defendants in the first case, plaintiffs in the second case).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Blue, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         This appeal and cross appeal arise out of two actions brought to the trial court, which were consolidated for trial, stemming from a property dispute between adjoining landowners in Canterbury. In the first action, Luther E. Thurlow, Anthony Denning, and Steven Pelletier (Thurlow parties), [1] claimed that Lee Ann Hulten and Linda K. Dieters (Hulten parties), had interfered with their right to access their landlocked property via easements over the Hulten parties' property, comprised of two separate parcels, lot A and lot B. The Thurlow parties claimed an express easement over lot A and an easement by necessity or an easement by implication over lot B. The Thurlow parties claimed that they had sustained damages as a result of the actions of the Hulten parties in restricting their use of the easements. In the second action, the Hulten parties claimed that the Thurlow parties had been trespassing on their property and sought to quiet title to the disputed property. The Hulten parties denied the existence of any easement over their property, but claimed that, even if an easement existed, it was limited to lot A. They thus sought to enjoin the Thurlow parties from using the claimed easement over lot B. The Hulten parties also sought to quiet title as to the size and boundaries of lot B and to recover damages for the unauthorized cutting and removal of timber from land they claimed to be part of lot B.

         The trial court found that the Thurlow parties had an express easement over a path off of Gooseneck Hill Road that ran through the Hulten parties' property, lot A. It rejected the Thurlow parties' claim that they had an easement by necessity or by implication running from the northern border of lot A across lot B, to its northern border with the Thurlow parties' landlocked property, and it denied the Thurlow parties' request for an injunction preventing the Hulten parties from blocking access to the claimed easement. The court further determined that to the extent that the Hulten parties have blocked the Thurlow parties from accessing the easement, the Thurlow parties failed to establish that they had suffered any harm.

         The Thurlow parties filed this appeal from the judgment of the trial court, and the Hulten parties filed a cross appeal. In their appeal, the Thurlow parties claim that the trial court erred in finding that they did not have an easement by necessity or by implication over lot B; that the court erred in failing to enjoin the Hulten parties from blocking their use of the express easement over lot A; and that the court erred in precluding them from submitting evidence in support of their claim that they had suffered damages when the Hulten parties blocked them from accessing firewood on their property. In their cross appeal, the Hulten parties claim that the trial court incorrectly determined the boundaries of lot B.

         Having examined the record on appeal and considered the briefs and the arguments of the parties, we conclude that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed. Because the court's memorandum of decision fully addresses the arguments raised in the present appeals, we adopt its thorough and well reasoned decision as a proper statement of the facts and the applicable law on these issues. See Thurlow v. Hulten, 173 Conn.App., A.3d (2014) (appendix). It would serve no useful purpose for this court to repeat the analysis contained in the trial court's decisions. See Riley v. Pierson, 126 Conn.App. 486, 492, 12 A.3d 581 (2011).

         The judgment is affirmed.

         APPENDIX

         LUTHER E. THURLOW ET AL.

         v.

         LEE ANN HULTEN ET AL.[*]

         LEE ANN HULTEN ET AL.

         v.

         LUTHER E. THURLOW ET AL.

         Superior Court, Complex Litigation Docket at Hartford File No. X04-CV-05-4059315-S

         Superior Court, Complex Litigation Docket at Hartford File No. X04-CV-09-4050303-S

         Memorandum filed October 15, 2014

         Proceedings

         Memorandum of decision in action in first case, inter alia, to quiet title, and, in second case, for, inter alia, declaratory judgment. Judgment in part for the plaintiffs in the first case, defendants in the second case, and in part for the defendants in the first case, plaintiffs in the second case.

         Richard S. Cody and Jon B. Chase, for the plaintiffs in the first case, defendants in the second case.

         Michael S. Bonnano, for the defendants in the first case, plaintiffs in the second case.

         OPINION

         BRIGHT, J.

         I

         INTRODUCTION

         This case arises out of a property dispute between adjoining landowners in Canterbury. The plaintiffs in the 2005 action, Luther E. Thurlow, Anthony Denning and Steven Pelletier (‘‘Thurlow Parties''), claim that the defendants in that action, Lee Ann Hulten and Linda K. Dieters (‘‘Hulten Parties''), have interfered with the Thurlow Parties' rights to access their lots from Gooseneck Hill Road via an easement over the Hulten Parties' property. The Hulten Parties deny that the Thurlow parties have such an easement.

         In the 2009 action, the Hulten Parties claim that the Thurlow Parties have been trespassing on their property because the Thurlow Parties have misidentified the boundaries of one of their lots that abuts the Hulten Parties' property. The Thurlow Parties dispute this claim. Thus, the Hulten Parties have asked the court to resolve this boundary dispute by ruling on their quiet title action in the 2009 action.

         The specific claims asserted by the parties are as follows. In the 2005 action, the First Count of the Thurlow Parties' Amended Substituted Complaint dated September 17, 2013, seeks to quiet title in their alleged easement over the Hulten Parties' property. The Fourth Count seeks an injunction prohibiting the Hulten Parties from obstructing the easement.[1] In the Fifth Count, the Thurlow Parties claim that the Hulten Parties have trespassed on their easement. The Sixth Count claims that the Hulten Parties have negligently breached a duty they owed to the plaintiffs by not allowing them to haul wood they cut on their property over the easement. The Seventh Count alleges that this same conduct constitutes a conversion of the Thurlow Parties' cut wood. The Eighth Count alleges that the Hulten Parties have tortiously interfered with Denning's business relations by not letting him remove the cut wood. Finally, the Ninth Count alleges that the Hulten Parties have tortiously interfered with the Thurlow Parties' contractual relationship with the parties that sold them the lot, which is supposed to benefit from the alleged easement.

         The Hulten Parties have denied the existence of an easement. They also dispute the Thurlow Parties' claimed scope of any such easement.

         In the 2009 action, in Count One of the Third Amended Complaint dated May 19, 2011, the Hulten Parties seek a declaratory judgment that the easement claimed in the 2005 action, if proven to exist, is limited to only a portion of the Hulten Parties' property, described as Lot A. They allege that the easement does not extend over what they identify as Lot B. In Count Two, the Hulten Parties seek an injunction prohibiting the Thurlow Parties from using the alleged easement on Lot B. In Count Three, the Hulten Parties seek to quiet title as to the size and boundaries of Lot B. Count Four seeks damages for the Thurlow Parties' unauthorized cutting and removal of timber from what the Hul-ten Parties believe is their Lot B.

         In response, the Thurlow Parties have asserted counterclaims in the 2009 action claiming an easement by necessity and/or an easement by implication over Lot B. They also dispute the Hulten Parties' claims as to the boundaries of Lot B.

         The court severed the parties' claims for damages and instead went forward with a trial on the primary questions that underlie all of the claims. First, do the Thurlow Parties have an easement over the property of the Hulten Parties? Second, if so, what is the scope and precise location of the easement? Third, what are the proper boundaries of the Hulten Parties' Lot B? Resolution of these questions would necessarily resolve a number of the counts of the parties' complaints and counterclaims and could resolve all of the claims asserted.

         The trial proceeded before the court over three days. The court heard from a number of witnesses, including Denning, Hulten, Raymond Hulten (Hulten's husband), John Dieters (Dieters' husband), Alexander Osiper (an abutting landowner), Kristen Estabrooks (Thurlow Parties' title searcher), Bruce Woodis (Thurlow Parties' expert land surveyor), and Gerald Stefon (Hulten Parties' expert land surveyor). The court also received hundreds of exhibits, including deeds and maps relating not just to the lots at issue but to several abutting properties. Some of these records date back to the 1700s. Following trial, the parties submitted posttrial briefs, supplemental briefs and reply briefs. The court also conducted two site visits, one before trial and one after all of the briefs had been filed.

         II

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Based on all of the evidence submitted, the court makes the following findings of fact. The court first addresses the facts as they relate to the Thurlow Parties' claim of an easement from Gooseneck Hill Road to reach their property. The Thurlow Parties are owners of a lot, approximately 9.33 acres in size, located west of Route 169, north of Gooseneck Hill Road, west of Lisbon Road and south of Phinney Lane in the town of Canterbury. Exhibit 1. The parties have referred to this lot as the Rainsford Lot, or Lot 21. Id. The property is bordered on the east by property owned by Donald Minski. It is bordered on the north (Lot 20), south (Lot 30), [2] and east (Lot 31) by other lots owned by the Thurlow Parties. The parties agree that exhibit 1 accu- rately sets forth the dimensions of Lot 21. The Thurlow Parties acquired their rights in Lot 21 from Leonard Montesi, Steven Marien and Kenneth Thomas in two deeds on April 10, 2003. A warranty deed conveyed title to Lot 21 as set forth in schedule A to the deed. Exhibit 77. That deed made no mention of an easement or right-of-way over any other property, even though it is undisputed that Lot 21 is landlocked and does not have direct access onto a public road or highway. A second quitclaim deed conveyed to the Thurlow Parties any interest the grantors had not only in the property itself but also to a ‘‘second tract or right of way as deeded to Frank Tillinghast by Mrs. George Bromley Adm. of Estate of Joseph Farnum and is described as follows;- A right of way from my house across two lots and through wood; and following the path thence to what is called the Rainsford Wood lot, for the purpose of going to and from said lot, cut and cart wood and timber standing on said lot and occupying said lot, always putting up bars on said lot.'' Exhibit 78. The right-of-way language incorporated in exhibit 78 does in fact quote from a deed from Mrs. George Bromley on December 24, 1903, purporting to grant a right-of-way from her house to the Rainsford Lot for the purposes set forth in exhibit 78. Exhibit 70. At the time of this grant, Mrs. Bromley, as administratrix for the estate of Joseph Farnum, owned property abutting Gooseneck Hill Road that is now owned by the Hulten Parties and is described by them as Lot A. Exhibit 159 accurately sets forth the boundaries and dimensions of the property owned by Mrs. Bromley at the time she granted the right-of-way to the Rainsford lot in 1903 and of Lot A as owned by the Hulten Parties today. That lot is identified on exhibit 159 as ‘‘Property of Lee Ann Hul-ten & Linda K. Dieters 2nd Tract.'' Exhibit 159. It is undisputed that Bromley did not own either Lot B or Lot 30, whether as described by the Thurlow Parties (exhibits 2 and 144E) or by the Hulten Parties (exhibit 159, fourth tract). Furthermore, there is no evidence that the owners of the property between Bromley's property and the Rainsford Lot (Lot 21) ever gave Bromley ...


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