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Ruth E. Buck and v. Thomas Libous and Frances Libous

January 3, 2011

RUTH E. BUCK AND DONALD J. BUCK, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THOMAS LIBOUS AND FRANCES LIBOUS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

At a conference on June 7, 2010, Defendants' counsel raised several issues. The Court resolved all of them except for the issue of whether Plaintiffs were entitled to a jury trial, i.e., Defendants' request/motion to strike Plaintiffs' jury demand. Defendants argued that, because Plaintiffs sought a mandatory injunction to compel Defendants to remove alleged obstructions from an easement, which was an equitable claim, Plaintiffs did not have a right to a jury trial.

The Court reserved decision and instructed the parties to file briefs setting forth their positions with respect to this issue, which they have done. See Dkt. Nos. 276, 279.

The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and the applicable law, and the following constitutes the Court's written resolution of this issue.

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs asserted that they had brought this action "to redress deprivation of rights and property contrary to New York State law, through Article 15 of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law, and Action to Recover Real Property, and also seeking relief in equity[.]" See Amended Complaint at ¶ 1. Plaintiffs sought "monetary compensation and damages, and injunctive relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2201[,]" see id. at ¶ 1(b), and demanded a jury trial.

Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants "participated in actions that destroyed [P]laintiffs' broad rights in valuable water front property." See id. at ¶ 4(a). In addition, Plaintiffs asserted that Defendants had "built upon and obstructed [P]laintiffs' access to the water's edge of Oquaga Lake, and constructed buildings and prevented [P]laintiffs' use of their property rights for recreational purposes." See id. at ¶ 4(c). Plaintiffs contended that, by engaging in these activities, and others, Defendants "caused . . . [P]laintiffs deprivation of use of their property, rendering it useless and of little or no value, and caused . . . [P]laintiffs anguish, anxiety, and stress and irreparably injured and caused . . . [P]laintiffs to continue to suffer irreparable injury." See id. at ¶ 4(d).

Specifically, with regard to Defendants Thomas Libous and Frances Libous, Plaintiffs alleged that, [o]n or about December 5, 2001 [D]efendants, State Senator Thomas Libous, and his wife, Frances Libous, acquired the subject property at the corner of Golf Course Road and Oquaga Lake Road as recorded in Broome County offices at Book 1952, Page 656. Broad rights in said property, including rights for recreational activities, for foot and vehicular traffic, and rights equal to those of the owner, . . . had already been conveyed to . . . [P]laintiffs by deed dated January 11, 1967 and recorded in Broome County offices at Liber 1117, Page 76 on February 24, 1967.

See id. at ¶ 6(a).

According to Plaintiffs, Defendants acquired nothing more than "easement and right-of-way property[.]" See id.

Furthermore, Plaintiffs claimed that, notwithstanding Plaintiffs' rights, Defendants built a large house and large, two-story structure called a garage, and landscaped, and moved dirt and destroyed and covered over the existing right-of-way driveway described in deed, contrary to the rights of [P]laintiffs, and causing damage to [P]laintiffs' rights including obstructing access to Oquaga Lake and obstructing and destroying their rights for picnicking, fishing, boating, and other recreational activities as provided by the recorded deed dated January 11, 1967.

See id. at ¶ 6(b).

Plaintiffs asserted that, [e]ven after complaint to . . . [D]efendants, Thomas Libous and others continued to construct, build, destroy, obstruct, alter, and move dirt in the easement and right-of-way property, and continued to do so through the summer of year 2002 and continue to occupy house and garage, all ...


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