Mountain States Tel. &. Tel. Co. v. Kennedy

In Mountain States Tel. &. Tel. Co. v. Kennedy, 147 Ariz. 514, 516, 711 P.2d 653, 655 (App. 1985), the owner of the servient estate, Kennedy, asserted that Mountain States had no right to lay telephone cable in the thirty-three feet along his northern boundary pursuant to a thirty-three foot reservation in the STA patent by which he held his property. 147 Ariz. at 515-16, 711 P.2d at 654-55. The language of the reservation in Kennedy's patent was identical in many respects to the reservation here, but it also had some important distinctions. Id. at 515, 711 P.2d at 654. Instead of plainly specifying that the thirty-three foot easement would be along the east and south boundaries of the land as the easement does here, the reservation in Kennedy's patent specified that a thirty-three foot easement would be "located across said land or as near as practicable to the exterior boundaries." Id. Kennedy noted that pursuant to that single reservation, Phoenix had taken a thirty-three foot easement across his western boundary in 1974 and his southern boundary in 1979. Id. Mountain States had taken an easement across the northern boundary in 1976. Id. Kennedy argued that the reservation was ambiguous and thus insufficient to grant multiple rights of way across his entire property at three of the four exterior boundaries. Id. at 516, 711 P.2d at 655. The Court disagreed. See id. In deciding in Mountain States' favor, we noted that "where the language of a public land grant is subject to reasonable doubt such ambiguities are to be resolved strictly against the grantee and in favor of the government." Id. After stating the policy behind such reasoning, we acknowledged that Mountain States was not the U.S. government, but was nevertheless the sort of beneficiary for which the U.S. government had reserved the right-of-way. Id. The Court thus held that the rule construing ambiguities strictly against the grantee also applies "when the federal government reserves an interest in land for entities not party to the grant." Id. Applying that rule, the Court held the reservation was sufficient to reserve an easement along the northern as well as the western and southern boundaries of Kennedy's property. Id. at 517, 711 P.2d at 656. The Court thus held that Mountain States' "placement of telephone cable within the specified 33 feet of the boundary was lawful." Id. If such a rule of construction gave Mountain States an entirely new thirty-three foot easement across the servient estate, then it is certainly sufficient to grant a thirty-three foot easement here, where the reservation is express. Mountain States' placement of the cable along the northern boundary was not strictly necessary when there was already an existing easement along the southern boundary. But noting that the purpose of the reserved STA easements was to enhance the value of the granted land for "residence, recreation, business or community site purposes," the Court determined that "the purpose of the rights-of-way could best be fulfilled by permitting access along all boundaries." Id. at 516, 711 P.2d at 655. Nor, of course, did Mountain States need to use the entire thirty-three feet in which to place its cable. Nevertheless, we specified that cable placement anywhere within the thirty-three feet of the boundary of the easement was lawful. Id. at 517, 711 P.2d at 656.