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Massachusetts Property Owners Seek Injunctions Over Their Activities and Use of a Common Beach

If another person interferes with your easement rights or over-burdens it with an impermissible use, you may have legal recourse to protect your property interests.  In some situations, the court may issue a preliminary injunction to keep the status quo or restrain certain conduct before a final decision has been reached, as in a May 24, 2019 Massachusetts real estate case.  The plaintiffs in the case filed a lawsuit claiming an easement to use a beach area.  The plaintiffs then requested a preliminary injunction from the court to enforce those rights.  In turn, the defendants sought a preliminary injunction against the plaintiffs to cease many of their activities the beach, alleging that such uses were destructive.

The plaintiffs claimed that they had the right to deploy and maintain a dock, use a boat ramp, and park vehicles and trailers on the beach.  In their motion for a preliminary injunction, they claimed that the defendants had interfered with those rights.  The defendants argued that any easements rights of the plaintiff were based on the permissive use allowed by the previous owner of the property, and such use had been revoked after his death.  The defendants further alleged that the plaintiffs had overburdened the easement and that their activities constituted a nuisance and trespass on the beach.  They sought to prevent the plaintiffs from installing a dock, launching boats, parking and storing trailers, boats, and vehicles, planting invasive species, leaving trash, having large parties and drinking alcohol on the beach, and lighting fireworks.

In Massachusetts, the court may issue a preliminary injunction only if the moving party demonstrates the following: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that he or she faces a substantial risk of irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued, and (3) that this risk of irreparable harm outweighs any risk of irreparable harm which granting the injunction would create for the non-moving party.

The Land Court first addressed whether the parties were likely to prevail on their respective claims against each other.  The court determined that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claims in part and found that an express easement seemed to allow some of the activities.  The court ruled that the plaintiffs did not meet their burden to establish a prescriptive easement over some of the other activities, however, including the right to install a dock, boat ramp, and park.  The court then concluded that they would suffer irreparable harm to the extent that they would be deprived from continuing their use of the beach over the summer if an injunction was not granted.

The court went on to find that the defendants had not provided sufficient evidence that the plaintiffs had actually engaged in the activities of which they complained, and as such, had not met their burden for an injunction.  The court therefore granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and denied the defendants’ any relief at this point in the case.

The Massachusetts real estate lawyers at Pulgini & Norton can advise individuals in a range of residential property issues.  We handle all areas of residential real estate law, including title actions and adverse possession claims, variances and land use regulations, purchase and sales agreements, mortgage re-financing, and many other matters.  Schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns with one of our attorneys by calling (781) 843-2200 or submitting our contact form online.

 

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