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Is an Easement Deed Valid Even When the Deed Contains Only One Legal Description?

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The Colorado Appeals Court took on this question in City of Lakewood v. Armstrong, No. 16CA1494 (2017 COA 159).

On June 18, 1984, Lois Jones Mackey (“Mackey”) executed a deed (“Mackey deed”) to convey a permanent public easement for ingress and egress over a portion of the southeast corner of her property to Jefferson County. The deed was recorded in the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s Office that same day. A month later, Jefferson County executed a deed to Lakewood (“Commissioners deed”) conveying the Mackey deed easement using the same legal description. The Commissioners deed contained a clause that required Lakewood to use the easement exclusively for public open space, park, and recreational purposes. This deed was recorded in October 1984 in the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s records.

In 2011, the Joyce B. Armstrong and Mary E.J. Armstrong Trust (“the Armstrongs”) bought the property from Mackey’s successor in interest and occupied it. At some point, the Armstrongs put locking gate at one entrance. In 2015, Lakewood filed an action for quiet title, declaratory judgment, prescriptive easement, trespass, reformation of the Commissioners deed, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. The Armstrongs answered and counterclaimed for quiet title, asserting that the easement was invalid.

The district court granted Lakewood’s summary judgement motion. The court found that the easement was a valid easement over the Armstrongs’ property for use by the public and Lakewood. The court denied the Armstrongs’ motion for summary judgment.

The Armstrongs assert that the district court erred in granting Lakewood’s motion for summary judgment because the Commissioners deed violates the statute of frauds and is void because it fails to legally describe the easement itself or the dominant estate.

An interest in real property must be created by act contained in a deed or conveyance and subscribed by the party assigning the interest to satisfy the statute of frauds. Words that clearly show the intention to grant an easement are adequate to demonstrate its creation, provided the language in the instrument is sufficiently definite and certain. The general rule is that vagueness in describing the easement does not go to the existence or validity of an easement.

The Commissioners deed conveyed to Lakewood a permanent public easement for ingress and egress over the property described. The deed provides a detailed description of a parcel of land in Jefferson County, Colorado. Thus, the Commissioners deed contains a description with sufficient clarity to locate it with reasonable certainty.

But the Armstrongs contend that the easement is not described because the parties agree that it describes the entire servient estate and the easement itself is not described within the servient estate. Even assuming this is so, as noted, a lack of specificity in describing an easement’s location will ordinarily not invalidate it.

We conclude that the Commissioners deed describes the easement itself with reasonable certainty and is not rendered invalid by any deficiency in the easement’s description.

The Court affirms the district court’s order granting partial summary judgment for Lakewood and denying the Armstrongs’ motion for summary judgment.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.

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