Under a very general definition, an easement is an interest in land, obtained from land that is owned by someone else. An easement interest is usually the right to use another's land for a limited purpose; like the right for ingress or egress (i.e. a right-of-way or a driveway). If the easement is an express agreement (in writing) then the dominant estate (the one entitled to the right to use) can usually uphold enforcement of the agreement, so long as they do not exceed the scope of the easement's rights.
Determining the scope of the easement, is usually found within the terms of the easement or parties' written agreement. However, some agreements may be silent as to use or scope, so the intent or the scope can sometimes be called into question.
Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals issued an opinion today, that called into question the intent and scope of an express easement between two landowners. The case in question can be found here: Wilson & Son Ranch, LLC v. Phillip Hintz, et ux. The main issue in this case was to determine whether or not the dominant estate was exceeding the scope of the easement.
According to the facts of the case, the Hintzes had used their property for years as a fish hatchery. However, in 2001, the Hintzes began using the property as outdoor event venue, such as hosting weddings. As imaginable, it appears an increase of traffic was created along the driveway for use as a wedding venue - and thus led to the neighbors being upset and filing this lawsuit.
The decision as to the scope and use of the easement ultimately came down to a reasonableness standard. The court held that the use was not an "unreasonable deviation" from the original grant of the easement, and thus, the Hintzes' were permitted to keep using the driveway for wedding venues and events.