Wicks v. Howard
Maryland Court of Special Appeals
388 A.2d 1250 (1978)
Richard Wicks (plaintiff) and Steele Howard (defendant) owned neighboring upland properties bordering the Sassafras River in Maryland. Both properties were situated at an angle from the river’s main, navigable channel. Approximately 16 years before Wicks purchased his upland plot, Howard constructed a dock extending from his upland property into the navigable part of the river. Because of the shoreline’s geography, Howard’s dock first extended perpendicularly from Howard’s shoreline, then turned toward the navigable part of the river, forming the shape of an obtuse angle. Howard’s entire dock was directly in front of his property. After Wicks purchased the neighboring property, he sought to build a dock running in a straight line from his property’s shoreline to the navigable part of the river. If Wicks were to construct the proposed dock, rather than building an angled dock like Howard had, then Wicks’s dock would intersect with Howard’s existing dock and would not be entirely contained in front of Wicks’s own property. Wicks sued Howard in circuit court, arguing that (1) Wicks had the riparian right to wharf-out from his property to the navigable part of the river on the straightest possible line; and (2) because Howard’s dock intersected with that straightest possible line, Howard should be compelled to either remove his dock or to compensate Wicks for the impingement of his riparian right. The circuit court ruled for Howard, holding that (a) Wicks’s riparian right to wharf-out from his property to navigable waters only applied to a dock constructed directly in front of Wicks’s property; and (b) Wicks’s right to access the river did not mean he had a right to access the river via the straightest possible path. Wicks appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lowe, J.)
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