Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County Case # C-07-123108
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harrell, J.
Thomas C. Lindsay, Sr., et al. v. Annapolis Roads Property Owners Association, et al.,
No. 63, September Term 2012.
REAL PROPERTY - CREATION OF EASEMENT IMPLIED BY PLAT REFERENCE - SUFFICIENCY OF PLAT REFERENCE IN DEED
Implied easements by reference to a plat are created where the deed establishing allegedly the easement contains a reference to a plat that contains a right of way. Construction of claims of easements by implication are construed strictly. Thus, where a grantor does not refer to the makers of a plat, the location of the plat's recordation, or the plat itself, but instead only recites terms defined originally in the plat, such free-floating references are not sufficient, without more to imply an intention on the part of the grantor to convey rights to an easement.
REAL PROPERTY - CREATION OF EASEMENT IMPLIED BY PLAT REFERENCE - PLAT DEPICTING RIGHT OF WAY - NO LEGEND OR OTHER EXPRESS LABELING OF RIGHT OF WAY
Where a plat depicts a strip of land that could not be regarded reasonably as anything but a shared driveway or street intended for joint use, the plat depicts or contains a right of way sufficient to convey an implied easement by plat reference, even in the absence of a legend dedicating expressly the strip to common use.
Bell, C.J., Harrell Battaglia Greene Adkins Barbera McDonald, JJ.
Barbara and Stanley Samorajcyzk (referred to collectively as "the Samorajcyzks") believed they had the right to use a ten-foot wide strip of land (hereinafter referred to as "the Strip"),*fn1 which serves and is used currently as a paved driveway to a property owned by the Thomas C. Lindsay Revocable Trust*fn2 ("the Lindsay Trust") adjacent to the Samorajcyzk's property. On 6 June 2007, the Annapolis Roads Property Owners Association ("ARPOA") (the community homeowners association) and six residents of the subdivision (referred to collectively as "Plaintiffs")*fn3 filed suit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County against the Lindsay Trust and Thomas C. Lindsay, Sr. (referred to collectively as "Petitioners"), seeking, in relevant part, a declaratory judgment that ARPOA holds fee simple title to the Strip and that the Samorajcyzk property enjoys an easement over the Strip. Petitioners responded with a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that the Lindsay Trust holds fee simple title to the Strip and that no easement exists over the Strip in favor of any plaintiff. The Circuit Court declared ultimately that: (1) ARPOA has no right, title, or interest in the Strip;(2) the Lindsay Trust holds all right, title, and interest in the Strip; and, (3) the Lindsay Trust's interest in the Strip is subject to an easement appurtenant to the Samorajcyzk property for the purpose of ingress and egress. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed in a reported opinion.*fn4 See Annapolis Roads Property Owners Assoc. v. Lindsay, 205 Md. App. 270, 45 A.3d 749 (2012). Petitioners filed a petition for certiorari, challenging the decision of the intermediate appellate court with respect only to its affirmance of the Circuit Court's judgment that an easement exists over the Strip for the benefit of the Samorajcyzk property. No cross-petition was filed by Respondents challenging the judgment of the Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals that the Lindsay Trust owns fee simple title to the Strip.*fn5 Thus, we are presented only with the issue of whether an easement for purposes of ingress and egress exists appurtenant to the Samorajcyzk property.
The Annapolis Roads subdivision was created by the filing of a Plat on 18 September 1928 among the land records for Anne Arundel County.*fn6 *fn7 We are concerned primarily with the creation of and rights attendant to the ownership of four lots (18, 19, 20, and 21)*fn8 and an abutting strip of land approximately ten feet in width and one hundred-fifteen feet in length ("the Strip").*fn9 The relevant portion of the subdivision is bounded by Lake Ogleton (a body of water) on one side and Carrollton Road*fn10 on the other, with two rows of lots in between. Lots 19 and 20 abut Carrollton Road. Lots 18 and 21 abut Lake Ogleton, and are stacked behind Lots 19 and 20, respectively, in relation to Carrollton Road. As depicted on the Plat, Lots 18 and 21 would not have access to Carrollton Road, except by use of the Strip, which runs in between Lots 19 and 20, and partially between Lots 18 and 21.*fn11
The Strip, as conceived originally, is approximately ten feet wide and contains two parts. The first part, depicted on the 1928 Plat, runs approximately one hundred and fifteen feet from Carrollton Road in a southerly direction toward (but not touching the shoreline of) Lake Ogleton, between Lots 19 and 20 and Lots 18 and 21, respectively. The first approximately one hundred feet of the Strip, beginning at Carrollton Road, is bounded on either side by Lots 19 and 20. The remaining approximately fifteen feet extends beyond the back lot lines of Lots 19 and 20 and between Lots 18 and 21, ending in a point at the lot line between Lots 18 and 21. The southerly terminus of the Strip between Lots 18 and 21 is oddly triangular in shape, with a ten-foot opening where the Strip meets Lots 19 and 20. The second part of the Strip, which extends beyond the original southerly terminus depicted on the Plat toward Lake Ogleton, was created in 1962 (referred to hereinafter as "the 1962 Extension") by the express reservation of an easement by the then-owners of Lot 18, Thomas and Dorothy Horton ("the Hortons"), over a portion of Lot 18 that was conveyed to the owners of Lot 19. This portion of the Strip extends approximately thirty-five feet, and is five feet wide, over a portion of Lot 18 as that lot was depicted on the 1928 Plat. See Appendix "B."
The Court of Special Appeals held, and it is undisputed before this Court, that the Strip "was a part of the lots binding it, and when lots were conveyed, the portion of the Strip binding the lots [to the mid-point of the Strip] was also conveyed." Annapolis Roads, 205 Md. App. at 301-02, 45 A.3d at 768. The panel of the intermediate appellate court determined that, as a result of subsequent transactions, the Lindsay Trust possessed fee simple title to the Strip. Petitioners dispute only the finding that the owners of Lot 18, formerly the Samorajcyzks, have an easement over, and therefore the right to use, the Strip. Because the basis for the Samorajcyzks' asserted right to use the Strip is claimed solely as an implied easement by reference to a plat, we explain (of necessity) the transfer history of the original four lots at issue as relevant.
The first transaction of Lot 18, following the filing of the 1928 Plat, occurred on 10 December 1928, when the Annapolis Roads Company ("ARC") conveyed Lot 18 to F.K. Mohler. The deed stated, in relevant part:
[ARC] does grant and convey unto [Mohler], his heirs and assigns, in fee simple, all that piece or parcel of ground situate, lying and being in the Second Election District of Anne Arundel County, State of Maryland, being part of the same land which [ARC] obtained from The Armstrong Company by deed dated the 2nd day of December, 1927, . . . to wit: Lot numbered Eighteen (18) of Section "D" in the development known as "Annapolis Roads", as designated on the plat of said Annapolis Roads made by Olmsted Brothers, which said plat is recorded among the Land Records of Anne Arundel County . . .;
Together with the buildings and improvements thereupon erected, made, or being; and all and every, the rights, alleys, ways, privileges, appurtenances and advantages to the same belong or in anywise appertaining.
On 10 April 1929, F.K. Mohler re-conveyed Lot 18 to ARC. Approximately two years later, on 20 February 1931, ARC conveyed Lot 18, again, to Mohler. The 1931 deed stated, in pertinent part:
[ARC] does grant and convey unto [Mohler], his heirs and assigns, in fee simple, all that piece or parcel of ground situate, lying and being in the development known as "Annapolis Roads" in the Second Election District of Anne Arundel County, State of Maryland, being part of the same land which the [ARC] obtained from The Armstrong Company by deed dated the 2nd day of December 1927 and recorded among the Land Records of Anne Arundel County . . ., to wit: Lot eighteen (18) in Section "D"
Together with the buildings and improvements thereupon erected, made, or being; and all and every the rights, alleys, ways, privileges, appurtenances and advantages to ...