The right to cross another person’s land via an easement may be subject to limitations. In a July 6, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case, one of the issues for the Land Court was whether an easement located on the plaintiffs’ land had been overburdened by the defendants’ use over time. The easement at issue allowed the defendants to access a public road from their property through a roadway on the plaintiffs’ property. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had overloaded the easement because they used it to access property other than the parcel expressly identified. The plaintiffs also sought damages for flooding, which they alleged was caused by the defendants having raised and widened the easement roadway.
An affirmative easement creates a nonpossessory right to enter and use land in the possession of another and obligates the possessor not to interfere with the uses authorized by the easement. Accordingly, the party holding rights to use of the easement, i.e., the defendants, are entitled to make only the uses reasonably necessary for the specified purpose, while the plaintiffs may use their land in any way that does not unreasonably interfere with the easement.
The defendants argued that they had established a prescriptive right to use the easement to access other parcels of land in addition to the parcel expressly identified in the easement. In order to establish their claim to a prescriptive easement, the defendants must show that their use of the easement was (a) open, (b) notorious, (c) adverse to the owner, and (d) continuous or uninterrupted over a period of no less than twenty years.