As reported earlier, in December, 2015, Maine’s highest court affirmed a judgment secured by Eaton Peabody partners, Judy Metcalf and Ryan Dumais, which confirmed clients’ deeded rights and public easement to use Cooper’s Beach and Cooper’s Beach Road, in Owl’s Head, Knox County, Maine. By decision in a companion matter published on March 1, 2016, the Law Court similarly affirmed that those in the neighborhood, also represented by Metcalf and Dumais in a five day trial, may use the beach and path shown on a recorded subdivision plan and referred to in their deeds.
Many of the cottage owners in the Cooper’s Beach community have peacefully enjoyed without controversy deeded easements which expressly granted rights to use the beach in their neighborhood for boating and bathing and a path along the shore for strolling and visiting neighbors. In March of 2011 Darlene and Lewis Edwards purchased a property in the neighborhood. The Edwardses’ property included a portion of Cooper’s Beach and abutted a section of the path, a portion of which has been incorporated into Cooper’s Beach Road. Ignoring the tradition of peaceful use and the clear deeded rights of their neighbors, the Edwardses began to try to block the easement holders from making use of either the beach or the portion of the perimeter path crossing the Edwardses’ property. In their first action, (the one finally decided last year), they decided to sue an couple in their 80’s who had fallen in love at the beach and summered there for their entire married lives. In the second suit, they enlisted the Gravisons, landowners who had purchased another of the lots in the community before the Edwardses arrived, to shut down the access always enjoyed and expressed in the deeds. The second lawsuit named nine of the households (seven of whom were represented by Metcalf and Dumais at trial) that had previously peacefully coexisted. In the suit, the Gravisons claimed that they owned the beach and had the right to keep the neighbors off it. In actuality, Cooper’s Beach, as it abutted the Gravisons’ land, was owned by longtime Cooper’s Beach property owner Nancy Bolan who inherited it from her uncle. The Gravisons also sued Mrs. Bolan, whom Metcalf and Dumais represented at trial and through appeal to the Law Court.
After five days of trial, Metcalf and Dumais won a decision which confirmed Mrs. Bolan’s ownership of the beach, assured the right to use the perimeter path to all those with deeded interests, and confirmed the right for those same parties to use the entirety of Cooper’s Beach for boating and bathing.
The Edwardses and Gravisons appealed the Trial Court’s judgment to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court which reviewed briefs and heard oral argument on the case in June 2015. The Supreme Court handed down its order affirming the Trial Court’s judgment on March 1, 2016. The Supreme Court’s order again confirms the Cottage owners’ easement rights and Nancy Bolan’s beach ownership. Attorneys Metcalf and Dumais are grateful to have had the opportunity to have represented these community members and help them preserve their deeded community rights.