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Morrell v. Rice

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
622 A.2d 1156 (Me. 1993)


Facts

The Morrells (plaintiffs) own ten acres of land at the tip of a peninsula in Maine. The Rices (defendants) own an immediately adjoining parcel of land on the same peninsula. Their land can be accessed via public road, while the Morrells’ land cannot. The Morrell property can be accessed by either crossing the Rice property, by crossing a tidal marsh, or at certain times by sea. Access by water would be possible only after an expensive dredging operation, and even then would only be possible at certain times of day during the summer. Before the Morrells purchased their land in 1971, it was accessed by an old road across the Rice property. Both parcels of land were once owned by the Given family. In April of 1810, Samuel Given executed a deed conveying the Morrell property to John Given, and John Given executed a deed conveying the Rice property to Samuel Given. Both deeds were recorded in May 1810. The Morrells brought suit to establish an easement of access across the Rice property. The trial court found that the Morrells had established an easement by necessity, holding that the Morrell property was accessed across the Rice property in 1810, and that there was no other realistic way of accessing the Morrell property. The trial court specified the location and conditions of the Morrells’ easement across the Rice property. The Rices appealed, arguing that there was no unity of title and that there was alternative access to the Morrell land. They also claimed that the easement should not have included a right to install underground utility lines across their land. The Morrells in turn claimed that the trial court had erred by restricting the easement to serve only a single-family residence.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Clifford, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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