Idaho Land Law

A Blog Discussing Current Issues of Land Use, Real Estate, and Construction Law in the State of Idaho.

Filtering by Tag: Easement

Idaho Supreme Court Awards Attorneys Fees in Easement Case

Another Idaho easement case…  



Unfortunately, easements are the equivalent of a full-time employment act for land use attorneys.  You can just count on a dispute arising over an improperly located or undefined easement. The following case gives us some guidance on not only easements but also on why a court will award attorney’s fees in a frivolously filed case.    

On January 23, 2015, the Supreme Court of Idaho issued its decision in The Jim & Maryann Plane Family Trust v. Skinner, Docket No. 41448.

In an appeal from Bear Lake County, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision denying the Jim and Maryann Plane Family Trust’s motion to void a portion of an earlier stipulated judgment regarding a ten-foot wide driveway easement. The parties’ predecessors in the case stipulated to an entry of a judgment creating a five-foot driveway easement over land currently belonging to Jason and Janae Skinner with the other five-foot of the driveway easement being located on land that might (according the parties’ predecessors) be State highway right-of-way.  Already you can see the potential problem for future landowners.

The Plane Family Trust argued the stipulated judgment was void for lack of jurisdiction and illegal because the State was not a party to the stipulated judgment. The Trust asked the district court to delete portions of the stipulated judgment referring to the location of the driveway on the State highway right-of-way. This would have had the effect of doubling the width of the Trust’s easement across the Skinners’ property. 

The Supreme Court determined that Rule 60(b)(4) did not authorize the district court to modify a judgment in such a fashion and that the judgment was not void or illegal. The Supreme Court also ruled the district court had not abused its discretion when it awarded attorney fees to the Skinners for their defense of a frivolous action. The Supreme Court found the appeal to be frivolous, and imposed sanctions against the Trust and its attorneys, ordering them to pay the attorney fees and costs incurred by the Skinners in the defense of the appeal.

It should be noted that the Trust failed to mention the State had granted the Trust a license to use the State highway right-of-way for purposes of ingress and egress to the Trust’s property.  While this is not discussed in-depth in the decision, I cannot help but think this played a critical role in the award of attorneys fees.

The case is a good read and can be found in its entirety at:

Undead Land Encumbrances – How to Kill a Blanket Access Easement in Idaho



Happy Halloween… One of the things we often encounter when reviewing real estate title issues are blanket access easements.  These easements are ugly and an appropriate topic for a Halloween blog post.  In essence they never die… they just sit there clogging title and leaving everyone wondering what to do about them.  In a way, they are the equivalent of the undead in the real estate world… lurking, waiting to rise up at the most inopportune moment.

Fortunately, Idaho has a great statute that allows a landowner to relocate access easements. The statute is not a silver bullet so think garlic instead of a stake in the heart. 

The statute, Idaho Code Section 55-313 states the following:

Where, for motor vehicle travel, any access which is less than a public dedication, has heretofore been or may hereafter be, constructed across private lands, the person or persons owning or controlling the private lands shall have the right at their own expense to change such access to any other part of the private lands, but such change must be made in such a manner as not to obstruct motor vehicle travel, or to otherwise injure any person or persons using or interested in such access.

This is a great tool for developers and owners wanting to clear title to their property.  It is an effective method to take control of how your property will develop and relocate existing access easements to get the most value out of your property.  Hopefully you will remember Section 55-313 in your next battle against the Frankin-Easement. 

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