Stowell v. Andrews

The parties appealed and cross-appealed superior court rulings regarding claims of defendants, the direct or beneficial owners of real property on Great Island, to deeded or prescriptive easements to traverse a footpath (the Circle Trail) over the Great Island lot owned by plaintiff Dwight Stowell, Jr. Great Island was on Lake Sunapee and lay partially in Newbury and partially in Sunapee. Stowell’s lot was primarily in Newbury, although a small portion of it is in Sunapee. Some of the defendants had Great Island lots in Newbury (the Newbury defendants), while others have Great Island lots in Sunapee (the Sunapee defendants). Because Great Island had no public roads, footpaths were used to get from one place to another on the island. The Circle Trail went around the perimeter of the island. In ruling on pre-trial cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court decided that the Newbury defendants have deeded easements to use the Circle Trail as it crosses the Newbury portion of Stowell’s lot. The court rejected the assertion that those easements were extinguished because the purpose for which they were created (to provide access to steamboats) became impossible to achieve once the steamboat wharves were destroyed in a 1938 hurricane. Furthermore, the trial court ruled that: (1) only those Newbury defendants who testified at trial have prescriptive easements to use the Circle Trail over the Sunapee portion of Stowell’s lot; (2) only the single Sunapee defendant who testified at trial has a prescriptive easement to use the Circle Trail over both the Newbury and Sunapee portions of Stowell’s lot; and (3) Stowell has the unilateral right to relocate the Newbury defendants’ deeded easements from the front to the back of his property. Stowell appealed the ruling that the Newbury defendant had deeded easements to use the Circle Trail that crossed his lot; the defendants challenged the other rulings. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s rulings regarding defendants’ prescriptive easements and Stowell’s right to relocate the deeded easements, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stowell v. Andrews" on Justia Law