In a recent case, the Superior Court of Massachusetts took issue with the bad-faith dealings of a corporation involved in easement negotiations with its neighboring residents. In Nicoli v. Gooby Indus. Corp. (Mass. Super. Sept. 2, 2016), the plaintiffs’ residential parcel of land shared a boundary with a manufacturing company. When the defendant failed to honor its agreement to sell the plaintiffs a portion of its land, the plaintiffs brought suit. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the defendant engaged in a pattern of bad faith that compelled an equitable outcome.
In Nicoli, the plaintiffs owned an L-shaped parcel of land neighboring the defendant’s property. After moving into their home, the plaintiffs contacted the defendant to inquire about purchasing a 30 by 28 foot parcel of its land to make the plaintiffs’ lot a complete rectangle. The defendant ignored the plaintiffs’ repeated requests for several years. In 2012, seeking to expand its plant, the defendant held a series of meetings with the neighborhood and city officials. Despite some neighborhood opposition, the city eventually approved the expansion plans in 2013.
The original expansion plans included the construction of a retaining wall that would have placed the 30 by 28 foot parcel of land on the plaintiffs’ side of the wall. In order to complete the restraining wall, however, the defendant needed to obtain easements from the owners of the abutting properties, including the plaintiffs. These easements were necessary because of the considerable disruption and mess caused to the neighboring yards. The plaintiffs agreed to grant the defendant an easement only after the defendant agreed to convey to them the parcel of land at issue. The defendant’s attorney hurriedly drafted an agreement in order to quickly obtain the plaintiffs’ signature on the easement, which the plaintiffs signed without seeking their own legal counsel.
By 2014, it became clear that the original expansion plans had changed with the addition of a loading dock near the plaintiffs’ house. The plaintiffs contacted the defendant, inquiring about the dock, which had not been part of the plans approved by the city, as well as their arrangement to purchase the small parcel of land. The defendant reiterated that the parcel would be transferred to the plaintiffs. In reality, the defendant had already made plans to install a loading dock and change the path of the retaining wall to reduce the plaintiffs’ portion of land from 840 square feet to 360 square feet, with a majority of that portion on the defendant’s side of the retaining wall.
The court found that the plaintiffs fully complied with their portion of the agreement, while the defendant, in turn, defrauded the plaintiffs. As a result, the court held that equity demanded that the defendant remove the existing retaining wall behind the plaintiffs’ property and replace it with a curved retaining wall carving out a parcel to be transferred to the plaintiffs, despite the substantial cost to the defendant.
If you are concerned about your property rights, contacting a qualified real estate lawyer may be beneficial. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our experienced land use attorneys assist homeowners and other individuals in achieving their goals and protecting their interests in property. To discuss a foreclosure or mortgage dispute, building permit, or other real estate issue, call Pulgini & Norton at (781) 843-2200 or contact us online and schedule a consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Appeals Court Sides with Property Owner in Case Against Town Over Easement Rights, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published August 22, 2016
Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs in Easement Case Against Gas Pipeline Facility, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 5, 2016