In Massachusetts, land use and ownership can be complicated after a parcel of property has passed through several owners over the course of many years. In a March 3, 2018 case, the plaintiffs filed an action claiming that they had established a prescriptive easement to pass over part of the defendant’s land. The matter was decided by the Massachusetts Land Court on summary judgment motions.
The plaintiffs in the case owned a parcel of land that abutted property owned by the defendants. The defendants’ property consisted of two parcels. Originally, the two parcels were a single piece of land owned by another individual. The original owner divided the land into two parcels in 1995, conveying one parcel to the defendants and keeping the other parcel for himself. The plaintiffs and the original owner engaged in litigation over the parcel he retained until 2012, when the house on the property was torn down. Eventually, the property was foreclosed upon, and the defendants purchased that parcel from the original owner as well. The plaintiffs then asserted a claim that they had established a prescriptive easement to pass over a portion of the defendants’ land. Specifically, the disputed area consisted of a section of the circular driveway on the defendants’ property, located on the parcel that had initially been retained by the original owner.
In Massachusetts, to establish a prescriptive easement, the plaintiffs must prove open, notorious, adverse, and continuous or uninterrupted use of the defendant’s land for a period of at least 20 years. The defendants in the case argued that the plaintiffs could not establish their prescriptive easement claim because their use of the defendants’ property was permissive, and otherwise it was merely intermittent or sporadic.