Property II, Pages 536–540, 550–552

Bob's Ready to Wear, Inc. v. Weaver

Court of Appeals of Kentucky, 1978

Facts:

Plaintiff and defendant bought adjoined buildings, and plaintiff bought a portion of defendant's building. The seller included a 20-square-foot paved area outside the building to each buyer. This area was used as a back entrance for the parking lot behind the businesses.

The seller then sold the parking lot to defendant. Defendant took this opportunity to build a fence around plaintiff's 20-square-foot section. There was no benefit to defendant to do so; it was merely done to block plaintiff's back entrance.

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Procedural History:

Circuit court denied plaintiff's injunction.

Plaintiff's Arguments:

  • Buying the building gave plaintiff an easement by implication.

  • Defendants are estopped from to sever plaintiff's access to the parking lot by building a fence.

Issues:

  • Did plaintiff have an implied easement to the parking lot?

  • Were defendants allowed to build a fence and block access?

Rules:

  • To determine if there is an easement by implication, both tracts must have previously had a common ownership and the use of the servient tract must have been established while they had this common ownership.

    If this is found, there are five factors considered:

    LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 538, Bottom
    1. whether the claimant is the grantor or the grantee of the dominant tract;
    2. the extent of necessity of the easement to the claimant;
    3. whether reciprocal benefits accrue to both the grantor and grantee;
    4. the manner in which the land was used prior to conveyance; and
    5. whether the prior use was or might have been known to the parties to the present litigation.
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    As a general rule, a license is revocable at the will of the owner of the property subject to the license. However, an owner may be estopped to revoke the license when, with the knowledge of the owner, the licensee makes valuable improvements in reliance upon the continued existence of the license.

Reasoning:

    1. Plaintiffs are grantees, which courts imply easements more readily in favor of
    2. There is no shown absolute necessity as plaintiffs still have their front entrance, however the 20-square-foot tract would become useless without the easement.
    3. The rear access increased the value the grantors sold the property for, as well as the value of the parking lot. However, such a benefit would only give exist while the city continues to maintain the parking lot. Otherwise, it would decrease the value of the parking lot.
    4. Before the conveyment, the plaintiffs used the parking lot openly to access the rear entrance.
    5. Plaintiffs used the parking lot openly before and after the sale.
  • Plaintiff made valuable improvements to its rear entrance with the knowledge of both the sellers and the Weavers. The only purpose of these improvements was to access the municipal parking lot, and their value would be destroyed if the access was denied.

    These improvements were not so great that defendant is required to maintain it as a public parking lot forever, but as long as it is, plaintiff can reasonably rely upon the continuation of the license.

Holding:

  • Evidence was not so overwhelming that the circuit court could not find that an easement by implication did not exist.

  • The Weavers are estopped to revoke plaintiff's license for access to the parking lot as long as it is open to the public.

Judgment:

Reversed.