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Presidential Estates Apartment Associates v. Barrett

filed: May 30, 1996; As Corrected July 9, 1996.


Appeal from Superior Court, King (91-2-06166-1) County; Honorable Larry Jordan, Judge. Judgment Date: 4-2-93.

Alexander, J., Dolliver, Guy, Madsen, Sanders, J.j., Johnson, J. (dissenting by separate opinion), Durham, C.j., Smith, Talmadge, J.j.

Author: Alexander

En Banc

ALEXANDER, J. -- Relying on Civil Rule 60(a), which authorizes a trial court to correct a "clerical error,"*fn1 the trial court entered an amended judgment, stating

that the original judgment was in error to the extent it did not reflect its intention regarding two issues. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the amended judgment did not remedy a clerical error, but instead dealt with what the Court of Appeals considered to be "judicial errors," which are not correctable under CR 60(a). Thus, on review we must decide whether a trial court may, pursuant to CR 60(a), amend a judgment to reflect its previously unexpressed intent, and, if so, under what circumstances. We affirm the Court of Appeals in part and reverse it in part.

In 1991, the Barrett-Yeakel partnership built the Colonial Commons II apartment complex on a landlocked parcel in King County. The land on which the complex was built was benefited by a 390-foot-long easement along the edge of an adjacent parcel of property on which is located presidential Estates Apartments. The easement provides the benefited party, Barrett-Yeakel, with "ingress and egress and for utilities for a total of up to sixteen (16) living units."*fn2 Stipulation, Order and J. for Prescriptive Easement, Pls.' Ex. 5 at 2.

The litigation leading to this appeal began when the Maribar Group, the then-owners of the Presidential Estates Apartments, commenced an action in King County

Superior Court to enjoin what it contended were four encroachments by Barrett-Yeakel onto its property:

1. The connection of the Colonial Commons II storm water system to that of Presidential Estates Apartments' storm water system.

2. Use of the easement for access for 18 living units, instead of the authorized 16 units.

3. Use of the access for 20 storage units, when access for none is authorized.

4. Use of 548 feet of the Presidential Estates Apartments' property for additional access, instead of the authorized 390 feet.

Pls.' Trial Br., Clerk's Papers at 54-55. Prior to trial, the Maribar Group sold its interests in the adjacent property to Presidential Estates Apartment Associates (Presidential), which was subsequently substituted as plaintiff.

After a trial to the court, the trial court found that Barrett-Yeakel had encroached upon presidential's property in the four ways claimed. Although it concluded that each of the encroachments should be enjoined, the trial court also concluded that, "sitting in equity," it would fashion "an alternative remedy," as follows:

I am enjoining, as I've indicated, the four encroachments. But as it relates to the encroachment concerning the additional two units only, I am going to give . . . the ability of the defendants to use the easement for the two additional spaces, provided [Barrett-Yeakel pays presidential] $22,500 within 30 days.

Report of Proceedings at 276, 277. The trial court entered written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a judgment consistent with its oral ruling. Barrett-Yeakel then paid $22,500 to Presidential.

The time for appeal passed without an appeal having been taken by either party. Shortly thereafter, however, Presidential contacted a City of SeaTac fire inspector, and,

using the judgment as support, asserted that it was within its rights to prevent access by vehicles, including emergency vehicles, beyond the 390-foot easement to the more southerly of the two entrances to Colonial Columns II. Thus it contended that Barrett-Yeakel was in violation of SeaTac's fire code.*fn3 This prompted Barrett-Yeakel to petition the judge who had presided at the trial at which the encroachments had been enjoined, for clarification of the judgment, pursuant to CR 60(a).*fn4 The trial judge granted Barrett-Yeakel's motion, ruling that, in addition to granting ingress and egress for 18 living units, he had intended to allow Barrett-Yeakel to (a) have the driveway to Colonial Commons II's southern entrance available for emergency access, and (b) lay a storm water drain pipe under the 390-foot easement. The trial court then entered an amended judgment to reflect what it said was its original intent.

Presidential appealed to the Court of Appeals, Division I, which reversed the trial court. The Court of Appeals rejected Barrett-Yeakel's argument that the amendment was merely a correction of a clerical error, concluding instead that "the omissions from the original judgment were not merely mechanical mistakes," but rather were "substantive changes to the original decision" which gave Barrett-Yeakel "additional benefits [that are] absent from the original record . . . which significantly alter[] the original judgment." Presidential Estates Apartment Assocs. v.

Barrett, No. 32689-9-I, slip op. at 4, 5 (Apr. 24, 1995). On Presidential's motion, we granted review.


Barrett-Yeakel contends that the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the trial court's order amending the judgment enjoining the encroachments. In support of its contention, Barrett-Yeakel argues that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in entering the order amending judgment pursuant to CR 60(a) because it merely brought the judgment into conformity with its original intent. In that regard, Barrett-Yeakel asserts that CR 60(a) is the current embodiment of a trial court's inherent power to modify a judgment to make it conform to the judgment it intended to enter. Seattle-First Nat'l Bank v. Treiber, 13 Wash. App. 478, 480, 534 P.2d 1376 (1975) (discussing O'Bryan v. American Inv. & Improvement Co., 50 Wash. 371, 374, 97 P. 241 (1908)). It argues, additionally, that, absent evidence ...

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