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Springer v. Cahoy

Supreme Court of South Dakota

December 4, 2013

Dale E. SPRINGER, Dorothy M. Springer, Roger A. Springer and Daniel L. Springer, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
Andy CAHOY, Defendant and Appellee, and Donald L. McClung, as Trustee of the Donald L. McClung Trust, Leonard M. McClung, as Trustee of the Leonard M. McClung Trust and All Other Persons Unknown Claiming Any Right, Title, Estate, Lien or Interest in the Complaint Adverse to Plaintiffs' Ownership or any Cloud on Plaintiff's Title, Defendants.

Considered on Briefs Aug. 27, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Gary W. Schumacher, Wilkinson & Wilkinson, DeSmet, South Dakota, attorneys for plaintiffs and appellants.

Gordon P. Nielsen, David A. Geyer of Delaney, Nielsen & Sannes, PC, Sisseton, South Dakota, attorneys for defendant and appellee.

SEVERSON, Justice.

[¶ 1.] Dale Springer, Dorothy Springer, Roger Springer, and Daniel Springer (Springers) own a landlocked parcel of land and have brought suit claiming an implied easement over Andy Cahoy's land. On June 24, 2011, the Third Circuit Court concluded that an easement implied from prior use existed. We disagreed, Springer v. Cahoy, 2012 S.D. 32, ¶ 11, 814 N.W.2d 131, 135, holding that " Springers failed to present clear and convincing evidence of an easement implied from prior use." Id. We reversed and remanded. Id. On remand, Springers argued for a common law implied easement by necessity. On November 26, 2012, the circuit court found the requirements for an implied easement by necessity were not met. And even if the requirements were met, the circuit court found relief must be denied based on South Dakota's Marketable Title Act (SDMTA) and Springers having an adequate remedy at law. We affirm the circuit

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court on the ground that SDMTA bars Springers' common law implied easement by necessity claim.

Background

[¶ 2.] Springers and Cahoy own adjacent forty-acre parcels of land in Clark County, South Dakota. Lester Harrington owned these parcels in their unity as an eighty-acre parcel from 1947 to 1967. On October 13, 1967, Harrington split the parcel into two by deeding the east forty acres to his son George Harrington and the west forty acres to his daughter Lylia McClung. In 1989, George Harrington conveyed his east parcel to Marilyn Swanson, who subsequently conveyed the land to Springers on May 29, 2008. In 2004, Lylia McClung conveyed her west parcel to Donald and Leonard McClung, who subsequently conveyed the land to Cahoy on November 26, 2007.

[¶ 3.] From 1967 until 2007, the two parcels were owned separately but rented by one person and operated as a unit. The land is primarily agricultural in nature, bordered by Game, Fish and Parks land to the north (currently underwater as a part of Swan Lake) and private land to the east and south. Cahoy's west parcel has access to a public road, while Springer's east parcel does not. As a result, starting in 2008, Springers crossed Cahoy's west parcel in order to access their land.

[¶ 4.] There is no written document, either recorded or unrecorded, granting the east parcel an easement across the west parcel. Further, there were no established paths through Cahoy's property. In an attempt to stop Springers from crossing his property, Cahoy put up no trespassing signs in the spring of 2008. Then in 2009, Cahoy locked the gates that provided access to his west parcel, effectively blocking Springers from entry. Now barred from entry, Springers commenced a quiet title action on December 21, 2009, claiming an implied easement on Cahoy's parcel.

[¶ 5.] First, Springers argued for an implied easement from prior use. The circuit court found that an easement implied from prior use existed but limited the use to agricultural ingress and egress during the spring and fall by seventy horsepower equipment or less using " flotation" tires. The easement route, proposed by Springers, meandered through Cahoy's land. Both parties appealed. We reversed the circuit court's decision on the dispositive issue of whether there was an easement implied from prior use. Springer,2012 S.D. 32, ¶ 11, 814 N.W.2d at 135. Because the circuit court " did not find that there was a historical use of Springer's proposed trail that was so continuous, obvious, and visible to make it an apparently permanent easement at the time of ...


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