Access to Landlocked Property Must Follow 40 Line, Iowa Court Rules

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: landlocked property.

Daniel H. Finnegan, et al., v. Lee Dickson, et al.. IA landlocked property

Lee Dickson and Carl Borrett owned a landlocked piece of property in Clayton County. Through the years, they entered the property, used mostly for hunting, through two different routes, but they never had an easement. When those routes became unavailable, they brought an action for private condemnation under Iowa Code 6A.4(2). That section provides that the access "shall be located on a division, subdivision or 'forty' line, or immediately adjacent thereto, and along the line which is the nearest feasible route to an existing public road.

There was a forty line running from the property to a public road, but that route was much more difficult. Instead, the District Court, Clayton County, Judge John J. Bauercamper, set the route through a neighboring field, along the line that would be formed by bisecting a 40-acre parcel (in other words, along the quarter-quarter-quarter-section line). The owner of the adjoining property appealed.

The Iowa Court of Appeals first examined the facts and agreed with the lower court that the property was indeed landlocked and subject to relief under the statute. But since there was a forty line available, even though that route was less advantageous, the appeals court reversed.

No. 14-0143 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 28, 2015)

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


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Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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