Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff and Defendant are adjoining property owners. Because the strip on Plaintiff’s land was too small, many trucks and other vehicles would service on Plaintiff’s property would use Defendant’s strip to enter, turn, park, and exit Plaintiff’s loading dock. Defendant began to construct a building on the strip to prevent Plaintiff’s use of the strip. Plaintiff brought suit to enjoin Defendant’s construction. The lower court held in Plaintiff’s favor and mandated Defendant to remove the obstruction. Defendant appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
When one obtains a prescriptive easement, the landowner may be obligated to remove a structure, if the structure encroaches on the easement, and pay for the removal of the structure.
Warsaw (“Plaintiff”) and Chicago Metallic Ceilings, Inc. (“Defendant”) are owners of adjoining properties. Plaintiff constructed a large commercial building on its land, which comprised of a 40-foot wide driveway for truck access to the building’s loading dock. Defendant constructed a smaller building on Defendant’s property, leaving a 150-foot-wide strip next to Plaintiff’s property vacant. Due to the size, Plaintiff’s 40-foot strip was too small to permit trucks to turn and back into the loading dock without going on Defendant’s strip. Since approximately 1972 to 1979, whenever trucks and other vehicles would service on Plaintiff’s property, they would use Defendant’s strip to enter, turn, park, and exit Plaintiff’s loading dock. Twice, Plaintiff tried to obtain an easement from Defendant, but Plaintiff was unsuccessful. In 1979, Defendant planned to build a warehouse on its strip. Defendant raised a pad of earth five feet from its property line, resulting in a blockage of strip that Plaintiff would constantly use of Defendant’s property. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant seeking an injunctive and declaratory relief. Nonetheless, the trial court denied Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction, and Defendant continued to construct on the strip. Later, the trial court held that Plaintiff obtained a 25-foot-wide prescriptive easement over Defendant’s strip, ordering Defendant to remove the parts of the construction that obstructed with the easement. The trial court further reserved jurisdiction to award damges in the event that Defendant failed to comply with the trial court’s order. Defendant appealed on the grounds that Plaintiff did not have a prescriptive easement because Plaintiff’s use of the strip permissive and not hostile. Thus, the lower court was not authorized to mandate an injunction for a completed act. Further, Defendant alleged that the court was substantially harsh when it granted Plaintiff a free easement and mandated Defendant to relocate or reconstruct its building.
Whether the landowner may be obligated to remove a structure, if the structure encroaches on the easement, and pay for the removal of the structure when one obtains a prescriptive easement.
Yes, the landowner may be obligated to remove a structure, if the structure encroaches on the easement, and pay for the removal of the structure when one obtains a prescriptive easement.
The majority improperly denied Defendant compensation of fair market value for the easement. Courts of equity are authorized to use their discretion to modify rigid rules when required by reason or conscience. In light of fairness, a prescriptive easement is comparable to a eminent domain. Thus, a prescriptive easement should mandate the wrongdoer to reimburse the property owner. The majority’s improperly mandates a contrary finding because litigation will not be reduced, Plaintiff’s ownership of the easement has been guarded, and Plaintiff is only being mandated to pay for the easement.Currently, society presumes parties would pay a fair market value for using land. Therefore, the court should remand the case to determine compensation based on the easement’s fair market value.
The majority unclearly describes how litigation will be decreased or peace will be conserved by authorizing a party to obtain property rights without providing compensation. Although the dissent raises valid policy concerns, the legislature is the only governmental body that is authorized to change to this complicated area of law. Therefore, due to the amount of legislative attention to this issue, the lower court’s decision should be affirmed.
When one obtains a prescriptive easement, the landowner may be obligated to remove a structure, if the structure encroaches on the easement, and pay for the removal of the structure. One establishes a prescriptive easement when the property use is used in an open, notorious, continuous, and adverse for an uninterrupted manner for a five-year period. Likewise, there must be a clear and particular line of travel, which indicates the easement’s existence. In this case, Plaintiff obtained a prescriptive easement because the trucks that would operate on Defendant’s land clearly, without permission, and without interruption followed a definite course forabout least seven years. Thus, the lower court properly issued an injunction because the court may mandatethe removal of ahindrance to protect and preserve an easement. Additionally, the court properly required Defendant to bear any removal costs. Therefore, the lower court’s judgment is affirmed.