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STEINKAMP v. HODSON

September 3, 1998

RICHARD B. STEINKAMP, ET AL., APPELLANTS,
V.
MARJORIE HODSON, APPELLEE.



APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT, RICHARD S. SALZMAN, J. [718 A2d Page 108]

Before Steadman and Ruiz, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruiz, Associate Judge:

Richard B. and Lenora Steinkamp contend that the trial court erred in issuing an order granting summary judgment in favor of their neighbor, Marjorie Hodson, on her complaint for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief construing and enforcing an easement over a driveway area to prohibit the Steinkamps from parking their car in the driveway or using the driveway for any purpose other than ingress or egress, and on the Steinkamps' counterclaim for tortious interference and property damage. The Steinkamps' subsequent motion for reconsideration and clarification of the summary judgment was denied by the trial court.

The Steinkamps' various grounds of alleged error were narrowed at oral argument, where they stated that they sought: (1) an interpretation by this court of the easement and the trial court's order with respect to the Steinkamps' right to park in front of their home; (2) an interpretation of the easement and clarification of the order on the meaning of the only use of the easement permitted to the Steinkamps — ingress and egress; (3) that this court lift the injunction prohibiting the Steinkamps from "using the driveway for any purpose other than ingress and egress . . . without [Hodson's] express, prior consent"; and (4) reversal of the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Hodson on the Steinkamps' counterclaim. We affirm the trial court's order and injunction as to the easement, which we interpret as permitting the Steinkamps to use the driveway and their own parking pad as we set out in this opinion. As to the Steinkamps' counterclaim, however, we conclude that because material facts remain in dispute regarding damage to a wall on the Steinkamps' property and that a jury could find in favor of the Steinkamps on that particular allegation, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Hodson. We therefore reverse and remand on that portion of the counterclaim.

I.

The Steinkamps, Hodson, and a third family, the Xenakises, are the current owners of lots just off the 2900 block of Garfield Street, North West, which share a common driveway area leading to a parking pad and entrance to each home. The three lots, 128, owned by the Steinkamps, 129, owned by Hodson, and 130, owned by the Xenakises, face on three sides a rectangular area, roughly one hundred feet long by twenty-four feet wide, which sharply narrows on the fourth side exiting onto Garfield Street. This area, for the most part paved, is derived from Hodson's lot 129 for 20 feet of its width; two feet of the width are derived on each side of the rectangular area from lots 128 and 130, owned, respectively, by the Steinkamps and the Xenakises. The Steinkamps' home on lot [718 A2d Page 109]

128 is situated so that the parking area in front of their home is perpendicular to the common rectangular area.

The area shared by the three lots is the subject of an easement agreement entered into by the investment corporations which built and owned the lots, and the District of Columbia government. The easement reads, in pertinent part,

Whereas, the parties of the first part [the investment corporations] are desirous of creating a non-exclusive perpetual easement for the purposes of ingress and egress to each of the aforesaid lots . . . [and]

Whereas, areas on the aforesaid described lots which are proposed for use as off-street parking areas are more easily and conveniently accessible through the easement sought herein, . . . the parties hereto mutually agree as follows:

1. Parties . . . hereby covenant and agree for themselves, their successors and assigns . . . that each of them will . . . constitute and create a perpetual easement and right-of-way for the passing and repassing of motor vehicles in, through, and across the following described parts of lots 130, 129, and 128 . . . for the mutual benefit of all of said lots so that each of the above lots shall always be accessible from Garfield Street, N.W. . . .

3. The said parties . . . will at all times keep unobstructed the said easement and right-of-way within the limits of each of the said lots and will keep up and maintain the same in a condition suitable for the purposes for which it is herein constituted and created, cost to be shared equally by the three (3) lot owners whose property abuts this easement or is served by this easement.

In their complaint, the Hodsons alleged that the Steinkamps have

continuously . . . parked on a portion of the driveway of Lot 129, said use being hostile to the Hodson's ownership of Lot 129 and an obstruction to the Hodsons' access to their own property and have used the driveway portion of Lot 129 for other personal purposes.

The Hodsons requested from the trial court, inter alia, the following relief:

an Order [1] declaring that the [Steinkamps] have no ownership interest in any portion of the driveway on Lot 129 nor any right to use said driveway for . . . the parking of motor vehicles, except for ingress and egress over and across the easement premises[; and 2] enjoining [the Steinkamps] from using, without the express permission of the [Hodsons], the driveway portion of Lot 129 for any purpose other than for access to and from their garage and residence on Lot 128.

The Hodsons subsequently amended their complaint to add the Xenakises, owners of lot 130, "solely for purposes of including all necessary parties," emphasizing that they did not claim that the Xenakises acted in violation of the easement.

The Steinkamps filed an answer both denying and asserting affirmative defenses to all of the Hodsons' claims, along with a counterclaim alleging that the Hodsons engaged in "continuous, tortious interference with the [Steinkamp's] use and enjoyment of their residence," as well as property damage to the Steinkamps' property:

[C]ontinuously until the instant litigation was filed . . . the [Hodsons] have called, and had other persons call in their behalf, to complain about the ingress and egress of the [Steinkamps], their family members and guests, about reasonable and ordinary noise, about furniture tastefully placed on the porch in front of the [Steinkamps'] residence, about the fact that they sit on their porch, about the ingress and egress of the children of the [Steinkamps], walking on their way to school, about ...


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