Man Sues To Enforce Easement After Neighbors Fence Off Access And Impede Electricity Service To His Property

justice money

An Oregon man who owns several acres of undeveloped land in Hereford wants a Cochise County judge to order his neighbors to honor a revised easement they recorded with the county which ensured he has access to the property and could have a power line run to his land.

Stanley J. Case of Washington County, Oregon purchased a 13-acre parcel in November 2019 which abuts 36 acres owned by Joseph A. Armenta Sr. and his wife Anita Armenta. He is suing the Armentas, who he claims reneged on a December 2019 agreement that revised a 2003 ingress and egress easement.

According to the Sept. 22 lawsuit, the Armenta property included a 20-foot easement allowing for access to the Case’s property. In December 2019, the parties reportedly agreed to change the location of the easement, moving it about 50 feet east, closer to the Armentas existing driveway.

They also agreed to establish a utility easement within the new location so Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) could install a power line to service Case’s property, the lawsuit contends.

The lawsuit states a SSVEC engineer met with Joseph Armenta in January after which the Armenta property was marked to show where utility poles and power lines would be located within the new easement area. In addition, Joseph Armenta filed a revised easement with the Cochise County Recorder’s Office outlining the agreed upon private ingress, egress, and utilities easement within the relocated area.

Read more by Terri Jo Neff >>

Case, who is represented by attorney Jana Flagler, relied on the recorded revised easement when he spent in excess of $30,000 to drill a well, install a new driveway, complete engineering and pre-installation work for the SSVEC power line, and install an electric service panel.

But in May, SSVEC determined some required language was missing from the revised easement which had been recorded by the Armentas. As a result, the Armentas must sign an electrical right-of-way document prepared by SSVEC before additional work can be performed.

However, the Armentas have not agreed to sign the document, and Case alleges they have even installed a fence and placed “dirt and debris” across the new easement area he was using to access his property.

“There is no other easement for ingress, egress, or utilities benefitting Plaintiff’s property,” the lawsuit states. “Without the Revised Easement, Plaintiff’s property will lose value.”

Case tried to get the revised easement enforced in August through a Quitclaim Deed but the lawsuit states the effort was rebuffed by the Armentas. As a result, Case is seeking a court order recognizing the intent of the revised easement and requiring the Armentas to remove any impediments hindering access to Case’s property.

In the alternative, Case is demanding monetary damages for what he spent improving his property based on the Armentas’ consent to a revised easement.  Case also wants damages for any additional costs he may incur if required to “obtain a different utility easement or develop his property without utilities.”

The breach of contract case has been assigned to Judge David Thorn. The Armentas must file a formal answer to the lawsuit by mid-October. A trial would likely not occur until late 2021.