The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge
Presently before the Court are two motions for partial summary
judgment (Docs. 120, 124). For the reasons set forth below,
Counterclaim Defendants Karl R. and Alice L. Iffland, et al. and
Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Ariel Land Owners, Inc.'s
(hereinafter collectively known as "Plaintiffs") motion (Doc.
120) will be granted in part and denied in part.
Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs Lori Dring and Nancy Asaro's
("Defendants") motion (Doc. 124) will be granted in part and
denied in part. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
On May 17, 1999, Ariel Land Owners, Inc. ("ALO") brought an
action against the Defendants in Pennsylvania Court of Common
Pleas to quiet title of the waters of Lake Ariel and Mud Pond and
the stream or channel connecting the same ("Disputed Water Area"). (Doc. 121-1 at 3) On September 24, 1999, Defendants filed
an answer. (Doc. 121-1 at 4.) ALO filed an amended complaint
shortly after January 26, 2001. Id.
On February 15, 2001, Defendants removed the case to Middle
District of Pennsylvania. (Doc.1.) On March 1, 2001, Defendants
filed an answer to the amended complaint along with a
counterclaim against ALO. (Doc.2.) ALO's March 22, 2001 motion to
remand to state court was denied. (Doc. 16.) Defendants' motion
to file an amended and supplemental counterclaim was granted on
May 16, 2002. (Doc. 45.) Defendants sought this amendment based
on their new acquisition of a strip of property running along the
West Shore of Lake Ariel. (Doc. 47.)
On May 22, 2002, Defendants filed a motion to file a second
amended counterclaim seeking to add West Shore Landowners as
indispensable parties. (Doc. 46) While this motion was pending,
on June 19, 2002, ALO and West Shore landowners filed a separate
action to quiet title in state court. (Doc.150 at 5.) On July 14,
2002, Defendants filed a motion to enjoin these proceedings.
Id. On December 12, 2002, ALO and West Shore landowners filed a
second motion to remand the case to state court (Doc. 80.) Which
was granted on January 28, 2003. (Doc. 83.) All other pending
motions were denied as moot. Id.
On February 26, 2003, Defendants filed an appeal (Doc.85.) and
on January 7, 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit reversed the order granting the remand (Doc. 89.).
On August 2, 2004, the Court entered an order enjoining ALO and
West Shore landowners (Doc. 96.). On August 3, 2004, Defendants
were allowed to file a second amended and supplemental
counterclaim to which ALO and West Shore landowners filed an
answer to on August 18, 2004 (Doc. 99.). On February 7, 2005, both Defendants and ALO and West Shore
landowners filed a motion for partial summary judgment to the
opposing parties' respective claims (Docs. 120, 124). Oral
arguments were heard from both sides prior to this opinion.
Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). A fact is
material if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect
the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party
need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material
fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute
is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact
is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." See id.
Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has
the initial burden of proving that 1) there is no genuine issue
of material fact and 2) she is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERAL
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d Ed. 1983). The moving
party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party
has the burden of proof, simply point out to the court that "the
nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an
essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material
fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire
record must be examined in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co.,
862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its
initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the
material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that
the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-257. The court need not accept mere
conclusory allegations or denials taken from the pleadings. See
Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d
Cir. 1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the
judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there
is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
Plaintiffs move for summary judgment with respect to the claims
in Counts II, IV and V of Defendants' Second Amended and
Supplemental Counterclaim. These claims together ask the Court to
grant Defendants the right to use the Disputed Water Area for the
following reasons: (1) Count II: "Defendants and their
predecessors in title have acquired appurtenant rights to the . . .
[Disputed Water Area] . . . by virtue of Defendants' ownership
of a portion of the bed of Lake Ariel and Mud Pond." (Doc. 46 ¶
21.) Additionally, due to "the operation of saw mills and logging
businesses which used the adjacent waters of Lake Ariel and Mud
Pond and the stream or channel connecting the same to transport harvested trees to saw mills located or near
Lake Ariel or Mud Pond at a time prior to December 13, 1859."
(Doc 46 ¶ 22.); (2) Count IV: "Defendants and their
predecessors in title have acquired appurtenant rights to use the
. . . [Disputed Water Area] . . . by virtue of prescriptive
rights." (Doc. 46 ¶ 28). Defendants' predecessors allegedly used
the Disputed Water Area to fish, boat, swim and trap. (Doc. 46 ¶
34.) They also claim to have erected a seventy-five (75) foot
fence to use for their working farm. (Doc. 46 ¶ 30-33.) This is
all, allegedly, to have been done for more than twenty-one (21)
years in a continuous, open, notorious and adverse manner.
(Doc.46 ¶ 30-35.); and (3) Count V: "Plaintiff's artificial
raising of the elevation of the waters of Lake Ariel and Mud Pond
and the resulting trespass on Defendant's property [elevation
covered the portion of land owned by Defendants] was accomplished
without the consent of Defendants or their predecessors in title
and is unauthorized, continuing wrongful trespass on Defendant's
property." (Doc. 46 ¶ 54-55.)
Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment will be granted as to
Count II. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment will be granted
as to Count V only in respect to the question of whether owning a
small strip of land underneath or land bordering the Disputed
Water Area allows Defendants full use of the Disputed Water ...