An easement is the legal right to a particular, limited use of property by someone other than the owner of the property. In some cases, the existence of an easement may become unclear after the property has passed down through different owners over many years. In a February 23, 2018 opinion, the appeals court considered a Massachusetts real estate action involving the plaintiffs’ claim to a right of way easement over the defendants’ land to access a main road.
The plaintiffs in the case owned a four-acre oceanfront parcel of land. The first mention of the easement at issue was in a 1927 deed, through which the original grantor conveyed a portion of his land. That portion was eventually owned by the plaintiffs. The 1927 deed included an easement consisting of a right of way from the north side of the parcel to “Beach Road.” The easement appeared with the same language in each subsequent deed conveying the parcel of land, but it was not precisely identified. Through other deeds in 1927, the original grantor also conveyed the property currently owned by the defendants, which contained a way to access Beach Road.
In 1999, the plaintiffs divided their parcel into two lots and sold one of them to a third party. However, the plaintiffs did not expressly reserve a right of way over the lot they sold. Subsequently, a dispute arose over the location of the 1927 easement. The plaintiffs alleged that the easement began at a point on the road that adjoins their property and crosses over the defendant’s land to meet Beach Road. The defendants argued that the right of way began from the lot no longer owned by the plaintiffs.