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Slechta v. Jewett

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

JAMES SLECHTA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RICHARD JEWETT and NANCY JEWETT, Defendants-Appellants

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Eliza J. Ovrom, Judge.

The defendants appeal the district court's grant of a declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Bruce Lundy Butler of Bruce Butler Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

James A. Pugh of Munro Law Office, Des Moines, for appellee.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

VAITHESWARAN, P.J.

Richard and Nancy Jewett appeal a district court order declaring that they do not have an easement by prescription or acquiescence over their neighbor's driveway.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Richard and Nancy Jewett and James Slechta owned adjacent lots—Lots 26 and 27 respectively. They and their predecessors in title shared a driveway that was situated on Lot 27.

The neighbors' amicable relationship came to an end when the Jewetts' granddaughter, who was living on Lot 26, started parking a car and leaving her children's toys in a turn-around area, impeding Slechta's ability to back out of the driveway. Slechta made comments that the Jewetts perceived as a threat to their granddaughter and her children. Both sides placed temporary barriers that obstructed free use of the driveway.

In 2010, the Jewetts sent Slechta a letter claiming an easement in the driveway. Slechta responded with a petition for a declaratory judgment that "[n]o such easement exists" in favor of the Jewetts. The Jewetts filed an answer and counterclaim, requesting a declaratory judgment that they had an easement by prescription or an easement by acquiescence for ingress and egress over Slechta's property.

Following trial, the district court granted Slechta's request for declaratory judgment and dismissed the Jewetts' counterclaim. The court declared, "[T]he owners of Lot 26 of Day Acres, an Official Plat in the City of Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, do not have an easement for ingress and egress over Lot 27 of Day Acres."

The district court summarily denied the Jewetts' motion for enlarged findings and conclusions, and they appealed. Slechta moved to dismiss the appeal stating the Jewetts had since constructed "a permanent cement/concrete driveway" on their property that rendered the appeal "moot and/or frivolous." The supreme court denied the motion ...


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