Property II, Pages 529–532

Alft v. Stewart

Tennessee Court of Appeals, 1995

Facts:

Defendant, Clayton, conveyed a tract of land to his sister—plaintiff Mrs. Alft. Included in the deed was the conveyment of an easement allowing egress and ingress of a dam and defendant's driveway. The following paragraph gave a personal easement allowing access to the lake that "may not be leased, conveyed, or assigned," which would be terminated upon sale or death by plaintiff.

Plaintiffs later decided to sell their house, but defendant would inform potential buyers that he would not allow access to the driveway. Plaintiff then filed suit to obtain a declaration of her easement rights.

Issue:

Did the deed also convey a right-of-way appurtenant to the property conveyed, a right which could be transferred, or a personal easement that cannot be transferred?

Rule:

An easement will always be construed as an easement appurtenant rather than an easement in gross if such an interpretation is fair.

Judgment:

Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • The parol evidence rule prohibits evidence to contradict or supplement the provisions of the deed, and it is not ambiguous. Therefore, the deed will be interpreted from its four corners.

  • Using the word "conveyed" for the easement evidences that it run with the land and thus able to be transferred to third parties. The paragraph after is a clear example of how to create an easement in gross. If defendant wanted to create such an easement, he would have used that language for both easements.

  • The easement to the lake was to Mr. and Mrs. Alft, while the easement to the dam and driveway to the grantee Mrs. Alft alone.

Procedural History:

The Chancellor held that the right of egress and ingress conveyed was an easement appurtenant that runs with the property.