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Dettmering v. Passarge

Supreme Court of Montana

June 27, 2017

KEVIN and HEIDI DETTMERING, Plaintiffs and Appellees,
v.
JOHN E. and ANNE PASSARGE, Defendants and Appellants.

          Submitted on Briefs: June 7, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DV-12-1414(A) Honorable Amy Eddy, Presiding Judge

          For Appellants: Jenifer S. Reece, Reece Law, PLLC, Bozeman, Montana.

          For Appellees: Paul A. Sandry, Johnson, Berg, & Saxby, PLLP, Kalispell, Montana.

          OPINION

          BETH BAKER, JUSTICE

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 John and Anne Passarge appeal the Eleventh Judicial District Court's order regarding an easement dispute with their neighbors, Kevin and Heidi Dettmering. We affirm.

         ¶3 The Passarges purchased their property outside of Columbia Falls, Montana, in 1994. The Dettmerings purchased their property-located kitty-corner from the Passarges' property-in 2002. Two easements that allow the Dettmerings to access their property encumber the Passarges' property.

         ¶4 In April 2006, the parties resolved by stipulation a previous lawsuit regarding various access issues. The stipulation provided that the Dettmerings would have the right to use and maintain the identified easements across the Passarges' property. The stipulation described the easements and provided that the Dettmerings had the right to construct a driveway within the easements that complied with Flathead County regulations. The Dettmerings constructed a new driveway in 2011 that did not comply with the County's regulations.

         ¶5 In 2012, the Dettmerings brought this action seeking a declaration that the Passarges were bound by the stipulation to not interfere with the Dettmerings' use of the easements. The Passarges counterclaimed, asserting that the Dettmerings had overburdened the easements and that their use of the easements had caused unreasonable damage to the Passarges' property. The Passarges sought to have the easements terminated due to the alleged overburdening and further sought injunctive relief to prohibit the Dettmerings from using the easements in a manner that caused damage to the Passarges' property. The Passarges claimed to have suffered damages as a result of the Dettmerings' use of the easements.

         ¶6 The District Court held a two-day bench trial in June 2016. The court found that the Dettmerings' new driveway was within the scope of the easements described in the stipulation. The court found further that runoff from the Dettmerings' new driveway had interfered with the Passarges' use of their property but that "[n]o evidence was presented as to loss of use of this property." The court made the following conclusions:

• that the Passarges had satisfied their obligations under the stipulation's terms;
• that because the parties agreed to the easements in the stipulation, the court could not find that the servient estate was overburdened by the Dettmerings' use of the easements, and it was therefore ...

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