A case stemming from the use of a right of way on commercial property in St. Thomas. In November of 2000, Parcel No. 14 Estate Contant was divided into four parcels. Parcel No. 14A was purchased by Gejan, Inc., Parcel No. 14B was purchased by Hubert King, and Parcel No. 14C was purchased by Alexius Perkins. Parcel No. 14D was granted to the three as tenants in common to use as a private right of way.
Hubert King is the majority shareholder of Caribbean Healthways, which he operates from his warehouse at Parcel No. 14B. In 1993, Caribbean Healthways started to take delivery of its merchandise at the warehouse by parking trailers at the warehouse loading dock. The trailers, which generally measured 40 feet in length, but occasionally varied from 20-50, extended out from the loading dock into the right of way. The trailers blocked the right of way for anywhere between a few hours to several days. While a trailer was parked in the right of way, it impeded access to portions of Parcel No. 14A.
The use of the right of way eventually became a point of contention between King and Gejan, Inc. and their tenants—all of whom did business from the building on Parcel No. 14A. According to one of their tenants, the trailers completely blocked access to their business. This relationship soured over the use of the right of way to the point that the authorities repeatedly responded to complaints about the issue. The trailers and the fighting caused at least two of Gejan’s tenants to relocate their businesses and break their leases. In December 2005, Healthways filed a complaint in the Superior Court seeking an injunction to prevent Gejan from interfering with Healthways’ use of the right of way and other causes. Gejan sought injunctive relief against Healthways to prevent the larger trailers from blocking the right of way. Both sides filed motions for temporary restraining orders, which were granted. The court restrained Gejan and their tenants from parking vehicles on or otherwise blocking the right of way (which they sometimes did to annoy King). The court also restrained Healthways from using trailers larger than 20 feet in length and from using the loading ramp in a way that blocked other vehicles from accessing the property. Both parties then filed motions for permanent injunctions. In the same motion, Healthways also sought summary judgment on the issue of the implied easement. At the hearing, the Superior Court granted Gejan’s request for a permanent injunction, reasoning that Healthways didn’t have a right to park trailers within the right of way. The court also clarified that the injunction prohibited Healthways from using trailers larger than 20 feet in length. Healthways appealed to U.S. Virgin Islands Supreme Court, which held that the Superior Court did not err in rejecting Healthways’ implied easement claim because it hadn’t alleged that claim in their complaint, but instead raised it for the first time in their summary judgment motion. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court reversed the permanent injunction as overly broad and concluded that the injunction, as written, “also prevent[ed] the use and parking of trailers longer than twenty feet anywhere on Parcel No. 14B, and that includes the second warehouse which has a loading ramp that does not cause interference with the right of way.” On remand, the Superior Court entered a new permanent injunction. Healthways appealed a month later. Associate Justice Maria M. Cabret of the U.S. Virgin Islands Supreme Court noted that Healthways’s primary argument was that “[o]nce again, the trial court did not narrowly tailor its language to fit the particular circumstances of the case, although this Court specifically instructed it to do so on remand.” Essentially, Healthways claimed that the Superior Court failed to follow the directions of the Supreme Court to amend the permanent injunction. The Superior Court’s original injunction permanently enjoined Healthways from driving in and/or using any trailer larger than 20 feet at Parcel No. 14 and/or interfering with the ingress and egress of vehicles belonging to the Defendants, their customers, and their tenants and/or their customers on that property. Following remand, the Superior Court’s February 2012 Order enjoined Healthways “from utilizing, inclusive of loading and unloading, any trailer with a width and/or length in excess of 20 feet on any portion of Parcel No. 14D Estate Contant.” The Superior Court also ordered that Parcel No. 14D Estate Contant was to retain its use as a right-of-way for ingress and egress only, allowing [Healthways] the opportunity to direct trailers longer than 20 feet to their premises located at Parcel No. 14B for purposes of loading, unloading, and/or storage. Healthways argued that the injunction was still overly broad because it “rents only one warehouse where it conducts its business, [whereas] Appellant King owns a second warehouse on Parcel No. 14B …. accessed by ramp and a separate loading dock which are not at issue in this lawsuit.” Because that separate loading dock was arguably encompassed within the injunction, Healthways asked the Supreme Court to again reverse the injunction and direct the court “to narrow and tailor its injunction to apply only to the dock at issue.” Justice Cabret wrote that in the Supreme Court’s February 2012 Order, “the Superior Court restored Healthways’ right-of-way over Parcel No. 14D—an issue that was not explicitly provided for in the initial order.” However, the judge went on to say, the injunction was internally inconsistent: it enjoined Healthways from utilizing any trailer longer than 20 feet on “any portion of” Parcel 14D, but provided that the company could use Parcel No. 14D “to direct trailers longer than 20 feet to their premises.” Healthways couldn’t direct trailers 20 feet or more in length to its property over Parcel No. 14D without simultaneously violating the court’s prohibition on "utilizing … any trailer … in excess of 20 feet on any portion of" Parcel No. 14D. Justice Cabret put it another way: “if a trailer longer than 20 feet were to drive over the right-of-way to reach Parcel No. 14B, Healthways would violate the first portion of the injunction, prohibiting it from utilizing any trailer that is 20 feet or longer on any portion of Parcel No. 14D.” In addition to being internally inconsistent, Justice Cabret said that the injunction also was still broader than necessary to restrain the impermissible conduct. Because injunctions must be stated in specific terms, no broader than necessary to restrain impermissible conduct, the Supreme Court agreed that the permanent injunction granted by the February 2012 Order was overly broad. As a result the Court reversed that order, and again remanded the case to the Superior Court to narrow the scope of the permanent injunction. Caribbean Healthways, Inc. v. James, 2013 WL 5348534 (VI September 25, 2013). Do you have questions about your business and dealing with other businesses? 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