Vendor-Vendee Relationship to Establish Easement by Estoppel

In Exxon Corp. v. Schutzmaier, the Beaumont court of appeals held the facts established easement by estoppel even though there was no vendor/vendee relationship between the owners of the dominant and servient estates. 537 S.W.2d 282, 285-286 (Tex.Civ.App.-Beaumont 1976, no writ). There was no question that the only means of ingress and egress for the dominant tenant (Schutzmaier) was by Loop Road which was located on Exxon's property. Id. This access was used for 22 years by the Schutzmaiers' predecessor in title, Brawner, without any apparent interference by Exxon. Id. In 1972, Brawner conveyed the property to the Schutzmaiers who expended money on their property and made improvements thereon. Id. It was found that Brawner relied upon Exxon's apparent consent in the use of Loop Road when he obtained an express easement in 1950 to the Loop Road, and that he and his successors in title had continued to rely on this use. Id. Until 1972 or shortly thereafter, school buses, mail delivery vehicles and other public persons used the Loop Road with full use and enjoyment. Id. Exxon knew of the Schutzmaiers' actions on their property and their use of the road, but there was no indication that any complaints were made until 1972, shortly after the Schutzmaiers acquired the property. Id. Gates were then erected across the roadway which designated the road as private, and sections were plowed up. Id. It was then that school buses and mail trucks plus others were unable to gain access to Schutzmaiers' property. Id. The court of appeals held that Exxon was estopped by their conduct to deny the Schutzmaiers an easement. Id. In Exxon Corp. v. Schutzmaier, there was no vendor/vendee relationship. Schutzmaier, 537 S.W.2d 282, 285-286. In Schutzmaier, the representation requirement of the estoppel was the conduct of Exxon which Schutzmaier relied on, and made improvements to his property. Id. In contrast, the Austin court of appeals has held that passive acquiescence "for no matter how long a period" will not estop a landowner from denying the existence of an easement across his land. See Scott, 959 S.W.2d 712, 721. Moreover, the Austin court held there must be "a vendor/vendee relationship to establish an easement by estoppel." Id. at 720. The court concluded that the essence of the doctrine is that "the owner of land is estopped to deny the existence of an easement by making representations that are acted upon by a purchaser to his detriment." Id.