San Juan County Real Estate and Litigation

We work closely with our San Juan County clients to define their objectives and create the optimal strategy to achieve them.


San Juan County was established as a part of Washington Territory in 1873 and consists of 176 named islands and reefs. While San Juan is the smallest of Washington’s 39 counties, it is host to its own unique legal issues and complex real estate dilemmas.

At Tousley Brain Stephens we have extensive experience litigating and advising on complex cases, including real estate projects and disputes, throughout San Juan County. Our founder Chris Brain even calls San Juan County home, and he thrives on being a part of a beautiful, history-rich and vibrant community.

This direct, personal experience, coupled with significant trial experience, provides our clients with lawyers who understand the intricacies of litigation and real estate and who excel at developing creative solutions to problems that may initially seem intractable.


Cayou Quay Marina v. Connor. TBS successfully defended and obtained a jury verdict dismissing claims by an adjoining property owner based on its attempt to enforce an agreement to agree upon future joint development, water, and septic rights.  The plaintiff’s claims were based on a document that plaintiff claimed constituted an agreement to jointly develop.  Defendants  prevailed on their declaratory judgment claim that the underlying document was an unenforceable agreement that lacked material terms and conditions and therefore was nothing more than a letter of intent to form an agreement in the future.  Defendants Connor were represented by Chris Brain.

Bellevue Farm v. Stevens.  TBS represents the Bellevue Farm Owners Association and 18 of its members in one of the longest and largest civil cases in the history of San Juan County.  Commenced in 2012, the case involves a residential community near Roche Harbor and involves issues related to interpretation of recorded covenants, conditions & restrictions, homeowners’ association governance, timber trespass, and adverse possession.  The case is currently on appeal after two successful trials conducted by Chase Alvord and Chris Brain in San Juan County Superior Court.

Lohrey v. Coldwell Banker Bain. TBS successfully defended and obtained a jury verdict dismissing claims by seller of Mariella property in Friday Harbor against a brokerage agency and individual broker. The seller claimed that the agency should have known the buyer would have paid $3.5 million more than the agreed purchase price for the property.  Coldwell Banker Bain was represented by Chris Brain.

Schramm v. Mancuso et al.  TBS represented the owners of Woods Lake, created by a dam, who also owned the fee title to a 10 foot strip of land surrounding the lake, which was to be maintained in its natural state.  Adjoining property owners were granted a limited recreational access easement over the 10 foot strip for limited recreational use of the lake.  Although the scope of the easement rights were in issue, the main thrust of the adjoining property owners’ claim was that the legal description prepared at the time of the initial Purchase Agreement in 1975 was binding on the parties and eliminated or significantly reduced the 10 foot strip in several locations.  The initial survey required that the 10 foot strip be determined from the edge of the lake when the lake was at the level of the overflow tube.  However, the surveyor for the 1975 survey did not locate or identify the overflow tube, but simply located the level of the lake at the time of the survey.  Later, in the late 1980s, the error was discovered and a subsequent survey using the overflow tube as the vertical reference established that the level of the lake was actually approximately 1.4 feet higher than as established by the 1975 survey.  The litigation commenced when one of the owners clear cut an area within the 10 foot strip.  The trial court held that the 1975 survey was done in error and adopted the legal description of the subsequent survey using the overflow tube as the vertical reference.  The plaintiffs were represented by Chris Brain.

Welker v. Mount Dallas Association et al.  TBS represented owners in resolution of the protocol for how the Mt. Dallas Road is to be maintained.  Many of the issues were resolved by agreement, but a handful of issues proceeded to trial.  Although the parties successfully negotiated many terms, the two primary issues in dispute were the method of assessing cost allocations to the 84 property owners and whether a discount was appropriate for undeveloped property owners and, if so, the amount of the discount.  The trial court adopted the defendants’ proposed cost allocation method and undeveloped lot discount.  With respect to the cost allocation method, the main issue was that the road was created by 6 segmented exclusive easements.  An owner whose property accessed the road in the first segment had no rights of access to – or ownership of – the subsequent easement segments.  The defendants’ method ignored the exclusive nature of the easement sections and treated the road as if it was one easement.  The result was that owners who accessed the road in the lower easement sections paid for a portion of the maintenance of the road beyond their easement section.  Plaintiffs appealed the trial court rulings and, in June 2019, Division I of the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court as to both the cost allocation method and undeveloped lot discount, remanding the case back to the trial court.  Plaintiffs were represented by Chris Brain.


Chase C. Alvord

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Christopher I. Brain

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