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Palmer v. R.A. Yancey Lumber Corp.

Virginia Supreme Court
803 S.E.2d 742 (2017)


Facts

R.A. Yancey Lumber Corporation (plaintiff) owned a large wooded parcel cut off from public roads since its subdivision from a larger tract in 1828. A private road provided access across three other properties, including Joanna Palmer’s (defendant’s). When Yancy planned to harvest timber for the first time since the 1980s, it needed to improve and widen the access road in some locations to haul logs using large trucks. Yancy wanted to use tractor-trailers instead of the 10-wheel logging trucks that another landlocked neighbor had recently used to haul timber, but the road needed improvements to accommodate either kind. Two of the private landowners agreed to the improvements and gave Yancy an access easement for any “customarily used tree harvesting equipment and transports,” but Palmer refused. Yancy sued, requesting a declaration that it had a permanent easement by necessity for access by all vehicles used for timbering. Witnesses testified that using tractor-trailers was the most efficient way to haul timber from Yancy’s property. The trial court ruled in Yancy’s favor, finding it entitled to an easement for ingress and egress by any vehicle reasonably necessary for its property’s development. The court specifically found tractor-trailers reasonably necessary, and that Yancy could drive them over the access road. Therefore, the court specifically approved modifications necessary to accommodate tractor-trailers in three locations. Palmer appealed, arguing that the trial court unlawfully expanded the easement’s width and gave Yancy a right to modify the easement to use trucks that unreasonably burdened Palmer’s property.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McClanahan, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Mims, J.)

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