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A Missouri statutory provision defining “costs” recovery upon conclusion of litigation includes the right to recover attorneys’ fees when special circumstances exist. This statutory provision was recently relied upon in a case of an easement which created a driveway.

The property owner who owned the land across which the easement ran (the “subservient estate”), and the beneficiary (the “dominant estate”) of the easement which provided the only means of ingress and egress to the dominant estate’s residence, apparently feuded after forty-five years of, if not peaceful, at least accommodating, arrangements. Apparently the property owner whose land was encumbered with the easement not only placed railroad ties across the driveway, thereby impeding the benefited property owner, but also positioned those railroad timbers in place with rebar.

The trial judge found, and the appellate court in this recent case held, that the subservient estate owner acted out of spite on numerous occasions in blocking the dominant estate owner’s use of the driveway, notwithstanding that the subservient estate owner knew the benefited easement holder was legally entitled to use the driveway. Although attorneys’ fees were requested, only a portion of the attorneys’ fees requested was ultimately awarded, which was still enough of an award against the owner of the subservient estate to make it sting.

Just another instance where spite isn’t always the best policy.