Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
GEORGE P. KATSOYANNIS, M.D., KATHRYN K. KATSOYANNIS, M.D., and THE NIKKI R. ALEXANDER REVOCABLE TRUST, Plaintiffs-Appellants and Cross-Appellees,
JAMES S. FINDLAY and SUSAN E. SMALL, Defendants-Appellees and Cross-Appellants
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CH 25907.
Honorable Neil H. Cohen, Judge Presiding.
APPELLANTS/CROSS-APPELLEES, Larson & Associates, P.C.,
Chicago, IL (James A. Larson, of counsel).
APPELLEES/CROSS-APPELLANTS, Pro Se, James S. Findlay and
Susan E. Small, Winnetka, IL.
and Pucinski, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Plaintiffs and defendants are neighbors
in a small subdivision in the Village of Winnetka. The
subdivision consists of 10 parcels and is bounded on the east
by a private beach that runs in front of the subdivision
along Lake Michigan. Defendants own beach front property and
thus have unfettered access to the beach year-round.
Defendants' private beach is burdened by a 15 foot wide
easement on the south end of the private beach in favor of
certain subdivision parcels. The easement runs from the edge
of the bluff on the west side of the beach east to Lake
Michigan. Plaintiffs, whose properties front Sheridan Road
and are not beach front properties, have access to the beach
via the beach easement, but access is limited due to a gate
installed by the Village in the mid-1990s that is locked
overnight during warmer months and at all times otherwise.
Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking a determination that
they had a right, under various legal theories, to cross over
defendants' property to access the beach so that they,
like defendants, would have unrestricted access.
[¶2] On summary judgment, the trial court
found that although plaintiffs were entitled to reasonable
access to the beach by virtue of an express easement that ran
with their respective properties, they had not established
either an express easement for ingress and egress over
defendants' property or the existence of an easement by
prescription. Plaintiffs' claim that an easement by
necessity existed went to trial and the trial court, after
plaintiffs' case-in-chief, entered judgment in favor of
defendants on this claim as well, finding that at the time of
the original conveyance, there existed a ready means of
ingress and egress to the beach that did not entail crossing
over defendants' property. We affirm these rulings.
[¶3] Defendants also contended in the trial
court that one of the plaintiffs did not have any rights to
access the beach given the lack of any express easement in
the chain of title. They appeal the trial court's summary
judgment against them on this issue and, in addition, argue
that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to
sanction plaintiffs under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137
(eff. July 1, 2013). We affirm these rulings as well.
[¶5] Plaintiffs-appellants are George and
Kathryn Katsoyannis and the Nikki R. Alexander Revocable
Trust (collectively, plaintiffs). Defendants-appellees are
James Findlay and Susan Small. Each of the parties owns a
home in the Winnetka Beach Estates subdivision. George and
Kathryn purchased their property (Lot 8) in 1998; Nikki
Alexander purchased her property (Lot 9) in 2005; and
defendants purchased their property (Lot 5) in 2007. Each of
the properties is improved with a single-family home. Shortly
after defendants purchased Lot 5, they observed a woman
crossing their property on her way to the beach and stopped
her. The woman was George and Kathryn's daughter and it
was at that point that plaintiffs claim to have learned that
defendants disputed their ability to access the beach by
traversing defendants' property.
[¶6] In order to place the issues presented
on appeal in context, it is necessary to trace the history of
the subdivision from its inception. In October 1959, LaSalle
National Bank submitted a plat for the " Winnetka
Beach Estates" subdivision to the Village of Winnetka.
The Village approved the plat on November 3, 1959. The
subdivision consists of 10 lots and is located on the shore
of Lake Michigan bounded by Lake Michigan on the east,
Sheridan Road on the west, Oak Street on the north, and
Cherry Street on the south. At the time it submitted the
plat, LaSalle owned Lots 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10. The subdivision
includes beach front properties with direct access to a
private beach, as well as nonbeach front properties, which
front on Sheridan Road.
[¶7] George and Kathryn's single family
residence is located on Lot 8 at 495 Sheridan Road.
Alexander's single family residence is located on Lot 9
at 467 Sheridan Road. Lots 8 and 9 do not abut Lake Michigan
or Cherry Street. Lot 8 abuts Oak Street on the north and Lot
9 abuts a private interior road that intersects with Oak
Street. Lot 9 is located between Lot 8 to its north and Lot
10 to its south. Defendants' single-family residence is
located on Lot 5 at 455 Sheridan Road. Lot 5 is beach front
property with a private beach and it abuts Cherry Street.
[¶8] At the time the plat was approved,
Cherry Street was open and provided unobstructed access to
the private beach for subdivision residents and to a small
public beach at the end of Cherry Street, which is bounded on
either side by private beaches. In the mid-1990s, the Village
erected a gate at the intersection of Cherry Street and
Sheridan Road and locked the gate, preventing access to the
beach between 9:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. from April through
November and at all times during the winter months of
December through March. Members of the public can access the
public beach via Cherry Street (during permitted times) and
can also access another small public beach from steps down
the bluff from Oak Street. But perpendicular barriers prevent
the public from walking across the private beach between the
two public beaches lying to the south and north. Thus, when
the Cherry Street gate is closed, no one, including
subdivision residents who do not own beach front property,
can access any portion of the private beach via Cherry
Street. Members of the public can still access the public
beach lying to the north by using the Oak Street stairs, but
subdivision residents using those stairs would have to wade
out into Lake Michigan, walk or swim around the barriers and
walk across seven other private beach properties to reach the
beach easement. When the gate is closed, the only means for
plaintiffs to access the beach is over defendants'
[¶9] The parties' dispute centers around
the original conveyance of Lot 5 from LaSalle to Joseph and
Nancy Davis on July 14, 1960, and the warranty deed (Davis
deed) recorded on July 18, 1960. The Davis deed conveyed Lot
5, subject to the following restriction:
" (d) *** an easement over the South 15 feet of Lot 5
above described commencing at the toe of the bluff of said
Lot 5, running eastwardly to the water line of Lake Michigan
for reasonable beach privileges in favor of the owner and
future owners of Lots 8, 9 and 10 in the Winnetka Beach
Estates. Grantor reserves to itself, its successors and
assigns, the easement herein set forth for said Lots 8, 9 and
10 and this conveyance is subject to said easement and the
right of the Grantor to grant said easements in the
conveyance of said Lots 8, 9 and 10." (Emphasis
refer to the foregoing provision as the beach easement.
[¶10] By the time LaSalle conveyed Lot 5 to
the Davises, LaSalle had already conveyed Lot 8 to Norman and
Vivian Jensen on March 18, 1960, and Lot 9 to William Cox,
Jr., on March 29, 1960. On October 10, 1960, LaSalle granted
the beach easement to the Jensens who recorded the easement
on October 20, 1960. The Jensens later conveyed title to Lot
8 to Benjamin and Elizabeth Douglass.
[¶11] Cox later conveyed title to Lot 9 to
Alvaro Biagi, who transferred title to the Al Biagi Trust.
There is no conveyance of the beach easement by LaSalle to
Cox similar to that from LaSalle to the Jensens.
[¶12] On November 16, 1998, the Douglasses
conveyed title to Lot 8 to George and Kathryn. The deed
conveyed Lot 8 and an easement over Lot 5 " for
reasonable beach privileges as created by grant recorded on
October 20, 1960."
[¶13] On September 1, 2005,
Alexander acquired title to Lot 9 from the Al
Biagi Trust. The deed also conveyed an " easement for
reasonable beach privileges *** as reserved in the deed from
LaSalle National Bank."
[¶14] On March 15, 2007, defendants acquired
Lot 5 by trustee's deed from the Northern Trust Company
as executor of the estate of Jessie V. Stone. After acquiring
Lot 5, defendants demolished the existing structure on the
lot and in its place constructed a new single family
residence. Defendants ...