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Massachusetts Plaintiff Obtains Injunction Against Neighbors for Fencing Off Easement

An easement allows a person the legal right to use another person’s land for a specific and limited purpose.  If someone interferes with that right, the easement holder may request that the court to issue an injunction prohibiting such interference.  In an April 5, 2019 Massachusetts real estate case, the plaintiff filed an action against her neighbors after they fenced in a private way, thus preventing her from using it.

The private way at issue was located on the borders of the plaintiff’s land and the defendants’ land.  The first deed to the plaintiff’s property, recorded in 1901, granted the right to the owners to pass over the private way, located on the defendants’ property.  After purchasing their property in 2017, the defendants informed the plaintiff that they intended to put up a fence to obstruct the plaintiff’s use of the way.  Over the plaintiff’s objection they installed the fence.

The plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Massachusetts Land Court, asserting claims of ownership by adverse possession and interference with easement rights.  The plaintiff then moved the court for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to remove the fence and stop interfering with her use of the way.

A preliminary injunction may only be issued by the court if the plaintiff demonstrates (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of her claims, (2) that she faces a substantial risk of irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued, and (3) that this risk of irreparable harm to her outweighs any risk of irreparable harm for the defendants should the injunction be granted.

The court determined that the plaintiff sufficiently shown her likelihood of success on the merits of her claims to an express easement to pass over the way, as well as to her claim of ownership through adverse possession.  With respect to her easement rights, the court found that construction of the defendants’ fence interfered with the plaintiff’s express easement granted by the 1901 deed.  The court also found that the plaintiff and her family had significantly exceeded those easements right for decades, demonstrating the kind of adverse and exclusive use that could allow her to acquire the way by adverse possession.

The court went on to conclude that the harm to the plaintiff, whose family has used the way for decades, far outweighed any harm to the defendants, as there was no record of their use prior to the installation of the fence.  Conversely, the plaintiff had used the way on a near daily basis for parking, access to the side door of her home, access to the rear of her property when transporting yard and recreational equipment and barrels of yard waste.  The court therefore granted the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction.

At Pulgini & Norton, our dedicated Massachusetts lawyers can provide legal advice concerning a wide range of residential property issues.  We assist individuals in matters such as home purchase and sales agreements, foreclosure proceedings, removing a tax lien, mortgage refinancing, and more.  Discuss your real estate case with one of our attorneys by requesting a free consultation.  Call today at (781) 843-2200 or contact us online.

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