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Blanton v. Eskridge

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Scioto

December 11, 2017

GORDAN BLANTON, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
GLENN ESKRIDGE, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

          T. Kevin Blume, The Blume Law Firm, Wheelersburg, Ohio, for Appellants.

          Robert R. Dever, Bannon, Howland & Dever Co., L.P.A., Portsmouth, Ohio, for Appellees.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶1} Glenn and Donita Eskridge appeal from the trial court's judgment finding that Appellees, Gordan and Sandra Blanton, had established an easement of necessity over a portion of the land owned by the Eskridges. The Blanton and Eskridge properties are adjacent to one another and are bordered on the west by State Route 52. The property currently owned by the Blantons became landlocked in the 1960's when the State of Ohio appropriated approximately eight acres from the Blantons' predecessors in interest and built a new limited access highway. On appeal, Appellants contend the trial court erred in finding that Appellees had established an easement by necessity over their real property. Because we conclude that Appellees failed to prove all of the required elements necessary to establish an easement of necessity, Appellants' sole assignment of error is sustained. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed.

         FACTS

         {¶2} Appellees, Gordan and Sandra Blanton, filed an amended complaint on December 9, 2015 claiming easements by both prescription and necessity over a portion of land owned by Appellants, Glenn and Donita Eskridge. Appellees and Appellants have property adjacent to one another and both of their properties border on the west what is now U.S. Route 52, which is a limited access highway that was constructed by the State of Ohio in 1962. At the time the limited access highway was constructed, Appellees' property was owned by Roy and Lula Ison. The record indicates that the State of Ohio commenced appropriation proceedings against the Isons and ultimately took approximately eight acres of their property for the construction of the limited access highway. The Isons were compensated approximately $2, 000.00 for the land taken, and were compensated an additional $12, 900.00 for damage to the residue of their property.

         Thereafter, the property was transferred to Orville and Glenna Ison, who sold the property to Appellees on December 2, 2011.

         {¶3} Less than a year after Appellees purchased the property, Appellants, through counsel, sent Appellees a cease and desist letter, ordering Appellees to cease entering their property through Appellants' property. The record reflects Appellees had been entering their property through a strip of land on the western border of Appellants' property which runs parallel to the limited access highway. It is this strip of land which Appellees claim they have an easement, and which they contend consists of an old roadbed historically used by their predecessors in interest to access their land.

         {¶4} The matter was tried to the court on July 22 and September 7, 2016. Appellee Gordan Blanton testified, along with other residents of the area, including Bill Waddell and Kenny Dyer. Appellee's brother Bob Blanton also testified. Most of the testimony that was offered related to the alleged existence of an old roadway Appellees claimed ran over Appellants' property. The witnesses all also testified that the only way to access Appellees' property was to cross Appellants' property. Appellants presented witnesses as well, including Appellant Glenn Eskridge and licensed surveyor, Loren Purdom. Appellants introduced testimony and exhibits through Mr. Purdom indicating that the alleged roadway claimed to exist by Appellees over Appellants' property does not exist and never existed according to various maps and aerial photos ranging from 1930 to 2011, and that the only access to Appellees' property was taken by the State of Ohio during construction of the limited access highway in 1962. Appellants also introduced testimony related to an easement they recently granted to Scioto Water, Inc., to install a water line in the area in which Appellees' claim their easement is located.

         {¶5} In their post-trial brief filed with the trial court, Appellees abandoned their argument that they had established a prescriptive easement and instead only claimed they had established an easement of necessity over the land of Appellants, by virtue of their landlocked status. The trial court ultimately agreed with Appellees, and granted judgment in favor of Appellees. In its entry, the trial court found as follows:

"The Court finds it's necessary that there be an easement of necessity over the land owned by the Eskridges. When Mr. Eskridge bought his land, it was reasonably foreseeable that there would be some access across his land for ingress and egress."

         It is from this order that Appellants now bring their timely appeal, setting forth one assignment of error for our review.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
"I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE BLANTON'S [SIC] HAD ESTABLISHED AN EASEMENT BY NECESSITY OVER THE ...

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