No. 231 Harrisburg, 1983, Appeal from the Order entered June 3, 1983, Court of Common Pleas, York County, Civil Division at No. 81-S-2462.
John L. Calhoun, Towson, Md., for appellants.
David R. Anderson, York, for appellees.
Wickersham, Johnson and Watkins, JJ. Wickersham, J., files a dissenting statement.
[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 453]
This appeal is taken from a final decree entered by the Court of Common Pleas of York County, sitting in equity, enjoining appellants Edwin C. and Jocine A. Sofinowski from limiting the width of a right-of-way across their land used by appellees Ronald E. and Betty C. Hash. The parties agree that since 1924, appellees' predecessors in title acquired a prescriptive right to use the way going from Watters Road over the Sofinowski property to the Hash property. In 1981, appellants installed a series of posts along the western boundary of the right-of-way and dug a bank ten feet to the east of these posts. The Hashes brought suit alleging that the Sofinowskis had wrongfully impeded access to their property and requested they be enjoined from so limiting the way.
Appellants have owned their property in Fawn Township, York County, Pennsylvania, since 1966. Appellees purchased a tract adjoining the Sofinowski estate in 1980. The Hash property is landlocked, the easement at issue providing the only access to the nearest public way, Watters Road.
Testimony adduced at trial established use as a farm of portions of the Hash estate from 1924 until the 1960's. Mr. Hash further testified that such a use continued until 1980. During this period, the right-of-way was used for passage of farm equipment to the Hash property, although
[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 454]
testimony varied significantly as to the width of the easement. The trial court found that the contemplated use of the easement for modern farm equipment was consistent with that which had been established during the prescriptive period, and determined that a right-of-way 18 feet wide was a reasonable extension of the prescriptive easement acquired by appellees. Appellants were directed to restore it to that width, and took exceptions. The court en banc affirmed. Because we find a prescriptive easement, unlike an express easement by grant, to be narrowly limited to the extent of use rather than mode of use exercised during the period of prescription, we vacate and remand for additional findings of fact in accordance with this opinion.
When a right-of-way is expressly granted, its scope is determined by ascertaining the intention of the parties to the grant. Lease v. Doll, 485 Pa. 615, 403 A.2d 558 (1979). The easement is construed in favor of the grantee where the terms of the grant are vague, so as to permit reasonable use and enjoyment. Id. This is so because a right-of-way is generally granted of necessity, providing the owner of property landlocked by subdivision with access to the public road. The landlocked property would otherwise be rendered virtually useless. Piper v. Mowris, 466 Pa. 89, 351 A.2d 635 (1976).
Although the extent of an easement is limited to that which has been granted, our courts have consistently permitted express easements to accommodate modern developments, so long as the use remains consistent with the purpose for which the right was originally granted. This is based upon a presumption that advances in technology are contemplated in the grant of the easement. Smith v. Fulkroad, 305 Pa. Super. 459, 451 A.2d 738 (1982). Thus Lease, supra, and Piper, supra, allowed easements granting ingress and egress to the dominant tenements across the servient tenements to expand from footpaths to ways
[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 455]
permitting passage of motor vehicles. The use, or more appropriately, purpose, remained the same -- access to landlocked property. Only ...