Rie v. Linde
The owner of an easement to use a boating dock that is located on another individual's property may not possess any right to tear down the dock and to build a new dock. The plaintiff, Deborah Rie, hired an engineer to design a 73-foot dock that would provide greater access to the Patchogue River. The proposed dock, which would be attached to ramps and floats, would be 110 feet from the beginning of the ramp to the end of the float. (The pre-existing dock was only 16 feet, and the length from the beginning of the ramp to the end of the float was about 35 feet.) Rie requested a declaratory judgment, to permit her to construct a dock on the property of the defendant, Mary Linde, and to require that Linde pay 50 percent. The defendant filed counterclaims alleging trespass, because the plaintiff allegedly cut trees and bushes. "The use of an easement must be reasonable and as little burdensome to the servient estate as the nature of the easement and the purpose will permit," pursuant to Somers v. LeVasseur, a 1994 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The court found that the defendant's relative divided her land and kept the "upper" lot. The defendant became the owner of the "lower" lot. In 2007, the plaintiff purchased the "upper" lot, pursuant to an easement to use the dock located on the lower lot. The easement provided, "The Lot Owners of Lots S1-1 and S1-2 shall be mutually responsible for the expenses for the upkeep and maintenance of said existing dock." The court found that the dock easement was restricted to the pre-existing dock and the portable structures that were attached to that dock. The plaintiff, who hoped to expand the scope of the easement, failed to prove she was entitled to construct the proposed dock. "[T]here is no language," wrote the court, "to suggest the easement owner was given any dock rights other than to the existing dock." On the defendant's counterclaim, the court found the plaintiff was allowed to cut trees and bushes, pursuant to a landscape easement.