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Bridge Bloq Nac LLC v. Sorf

Court of Appeals of Utah

August 1, 2019

Bridge BLOQ NAC LLC, Appellant,
Zdenek Sorf, CNC Machine and Design Inc., and FRS Leasing LLC, Appellees.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Andrew H. Stone No. 110916014

          Leslie Van Frank, Stephen T. Hester, and Bradley M. Strassberg, Attorneys for Appellant

          Paul M. Belnap and Alan R. Houston, Attorneys for Appellees

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Kate Appleby concurred.


          POHLMAN, Judge:

         ¶1 This dispute involves whether Appellees Zdenek Sorf (Mr. Sorf), CNC Machine and Design Inc., and FRS Leasing LLC (collectively, Sorf)[1] have an implied easement over property belonging to Bridge BLOQ NAC LLC.[2] The trial court ruled that an easement existed. Bridge appeals, and we affirm.


         ¶2 Bridge and Sorf own adjoining properties separated by a paved alley. Bridge owns the east property and Sorf owns the west property. The alley, which is the subject of this dispute, is on Bridge's property.

         ¶3 On each property sits a building-the east building and the west building. The west building is approximately one foot from the boundary line between the two properties. The east building is approximately thirty feet to the east of the same boundary line.

         ¶4 Both properties were once owned by Sorf's predecessor, a company formed by Mr. Sorf and a business partner (Partner). In 2001, the east property was conveyed to Partner, while Sorf retained the west property. After the properties were severed, Sorf continued to use the alley in the same manner it was used before severance. Specifically, Sorf used the alley for ingress and egress, received deliveries to the west building through the alley, and parked in the alley. In addition, before and after severance, a tenant of the west building (Tenant) was given exclusive use of two parking spaces in the southernmost part of the alley. Tenant testified at trial that without those spots, it would "probably have to move" out of the west building.

         ¶5 Six years after severance, a dispute developed between Sorf and Partner regarding rights to the alley. Sorf filed a Notice of Easement, stating that "[a]n easement . . . in the alley is claimed for pedestrian and vehicle access for the entire length of the alley, for all parking stalls located therein, for garbage receptacles and for storage of raw materials, storage of metal bars and ingots, pallets, and machinery." The Notice of Easement further claimed that Sorf and its predecessors had used the alley "continuously for fifty-one (51) years."

         ¶6 Through a series of conveyances, the east property- including the alley-came to belong to Bridge, which subsequently brought suit to quiet title. Sorf counterclaimed, requesting (as relevant here) a declaratory judgment upholding the existence of an implied easement.[3]

         ¶7 As the litigation proceeded, Mr. Sorf was deposed. He testified that when he severed the properties in 2001, he intended to split "everything 50/50" and that he would have "never agree[d]" to someone else owning the alley. He also testified that "from day one, [he] ke[pt] using that property as [his] property . . . for [the] next six years" until he found out he did not own it. "That's when I start[ed] fighting back," explained Mr. Sorf, "because this was not the agreement."

         ¶8 Mr. Sorf expressed similar sentiments in two declarations. In the first, he stated,

[Partner] and I agreed to dissolve our business relationship in the year 2001 and at that time we agreed that the alley would be split 50-50, just as we had discussed previously, and that the alley would continue to be used as in the past.
I did not know the alley was part of the property deeded to [Partner] when we ended our relationship, and I believed that we had divided the alley equally.

         In his second declaration, he confirmed,

I NEVER would have agreed to conveyance of the east property to [Partner] if I had known that the alley was located on the east property because the alley is critical to the operation of [the west property].

         ¶9 Based partly on these statements, Bridge moved for summary judgment on Sorf's sole remaining counterclaim for an implied easement. It argued that there was "no basis to imply" the intent necessary for an implied easement, because "Sorf has made his intent clear by virtue of his . . . sworn testimony in this case." Bridge reasoned that "Sorf intended to own half of the alley, not have permission to use it." (Emphasis added.) Because Mr. Sorf stated that he never would have conveyed the east property and ...

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