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Kalfas v. Adams

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 06-19-2013
Case #:  A146081
Wollheim, J., Hadlock, J., and Schuman, P.J. for the Court
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A146081.pdf

Property Law: When an express easement is clear and unambiguous, the court should not look to the surrounding circumstances to determine its meaning.

Kalfas and Adams own neighboring properties that were once owned in common.  A road runs through both properties, requiring both Kalfas and Adams to use portions of the road located on the other’s property in order to access portions of their own property.  The prior owners executed an agreement allowing mutual non-exclusive easements on all existing and future roads.  Adams built a house on her property, built a new road to use as a driveway, rebuilt a portion of the existing road, and installed a gate across the road.  Kalfas objected to the gate and some landscaping as interfering with access to their property.  The trial court found that the road from the Kalfas property to the Adams property was a trail and not an “existing road,” so Kalfas would be required to build a new road across the Adams property.  The Court of Appeals found the easement agreement to be unambiguous, and that “existing roads” included those that were not drivable.  Therefore, Kalfas has an easement to use the existing road across the Adams property and the gate does not unreasonably interfere with Kalfas’s use of the road.  Additionally, the trial court did not have authority to order the creation of a new road since neither party requested that remedy.  Reversed and remanded.