Brief Fact Summary. A feed store had been using a piece of land for vehicles for many years before it was conclusively established that another party owned the land. The actual owner erected a barrier which prevented the feed store from using the land, so the store made a claim for a prescriptive easement.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In Vermont, a prescriptive easement is a nonfee interest, which is established by adverse use or possession which is open, notorious, hostile and continuous for fifteen years, and acquiescence in the use or possession by the person against whom the claim is asserted.
In the absence of color of title and where a lot has no definite boundary marks, adverse possession can only extend as far as the claimant has actually occupied and possessed the land in dispute.View Full Point of Law
Issue. When a person mistakenly uses the property of another for a statutory period of time without permission, does a prescriptive easement arise?
Held. Yes. Judgment reversed.
In Vermont, to establish a prescriptive easement, the following elements must be established: adverse use or possession which is open, notorious, hostile and continuous for fifteen years, and acquiescence in the use or possession by the person against whom the claim is asserted. The possessor receives a non-fee interest.
The area in dispute had been used by vehicles since the 1920s, and the use was uninterrupted until the barrier was erected in 1984. This satisfied the open, notorious and continuous elements.
Generally, open and notorious use is presumed to be adverse.
The plaintiff proved they met the time period of fifteen years by the doctrine of tacking. The chain of title from 1929 to the present showed that the gravel area had been used by plaintiff’s predecessors.
Discussion. An easement by prescription creates a possessory interest in land, similar to adverse possession. The difference is that the interest claimed under adverse possession is in fee; a prescriptive easement leads to a non-fee interest.