Defendant was the landowner of a parcel that was the servient estate for an ingress egress easement. The easement was called Whippoorwill Lane by locals and was established in 1937. There was various easement language on earlier deeds that conveyed land that would eventually become the plaintiffs' parcel and the defendant’s parcel. However, the plaintiffs’ deed made no mention of the easement, and the defendant’s deed only stated that the conveyance was “subject to . . . easements . . . of record, if any.” Eventually, the defendant wanted to move the location of the easement. He wanted the plaintiffs to use an alternative road that he constructed. Plaintiffs were not amicable to using the new road.

Plaintiffs sued defendant for a declaratory judgment of an express easement along Whippoorwill Lane. Defendant counterclaimed for trespass and asked the court to relocate the easement by “judicial fiat,” arguing a balancing test weighing the burdens and benefits of the two roads was the appropriate standard for the court to use to determine whether to relocate the easement. Trial court found in Whippoorwill Lane was an express easement.  Defendant appealed the trial court’s determination.

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court. The easement was an appurtenant easement that was properly recorded in earlier deeds. The omission of the specific easement on plaintiffs’ and defendant’s deed was irrelevant. The court also held that the location “cannot be changed by either party without the other’s consent[.]” Therefore, the trial court used the correct approach when it did not use the balancing test to determine if the easement should be moved to defendant’s new road. 

Wallace v. Byrne, No. ED110783 (Mo. E. App. Ct. June 27, 2023).