APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV 09-773 Honorable Edward P. McLean, Presiding Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Mike McGrath
Submitted on Briefs: February 6, 2013
Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the Opinion of the Court.
¶1 Plaintiffs (collectively referred to as the Homeowners) appeal from the District Court's Opinion and Order, filed October 4, 2011. We affirm.
¶2 The Homeowners contend that the District Court erred by not recognizing that they have unrestricted easements across four roads located on the Hollingers' property.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
¶3 This action arises from easement disputes at Big Sky Lake, which is north of Clearwater Junction and east of Salmon Lake, in Missoula County. In 1965 the lake was called Fish Lake, and the surrounding land was largely undeveloped. That year Carter Williams and Anton Hollinger formed a corporation called the Big Sky Lake Company (Company) and bought the lake and the surrounding 800 or so acres of land. They changed the name of the lake to Big Sky Lake, built an access road that encircled the lake and divided the lakeshore into a number of lots. Over the years those lakeshore lots were all sold to the Homeowners and others. The access road, called the Perimeter Road and now owned by the Homeowners Association, provides the access to each lakeshore lot. All of the lakeshore lots lie within the Perimeter Road.
¶4 After the lakeshore lots were divided and sold, the larger tracts of land outside the Perimeter Road were divided between the Hollinger and Williams families. The Hollingers' land does not abut the lakeshore and does not abut the lakeshore lots. The Homeowners all own lakeshore lots and claim a right, based upon language in various documents that arose from the initial development of the lake, to an express easement allowing them the unrestricted use of four roads or trails on the Hollingers' land.*fn1 While the Hollingers allow permissive use of the four roads or trails for non-motorized access, the Homeowners claim the right to use motor vehicles including motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles.
¶5 After the Hollingers installed gates at several points to block motorized access to the disputed roads, the Homeowners sued in District Court.*fn2 After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court denied the Homeowners' request for a preliminary injunction against the Hollingers' blocking the roads to motorized access. The Homeowners commissioned a survey of the area and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Hollingers, holding that none of the documents relied upon by the Homeowners established an easement across the Hollingers' land.
¶6 This case arises from the District Court's decision on cross-motions for summary judgment. This Court reviews a decision on summary judgment de novo, by applying the same criteria as the district court under M. R. Civ. P. 56. Smith v. BNSF Ry., 2008 MT 225, ¶ 10, 344 Mont. 278, 187 P.3d 639. We review a decision "de novo" to determine ...