What Is An Equitable Easement

Law Talk

Sam K. Abdulaziz
Attorney at Law

This is a case that goes back many, many years. In 1891, the United States divided a huge track of land into ten parcels. The U.S. retained parcel one but sold the other parcels to Thomas Bush (I am not sure if that is any relation).

Francis Griswold obtained the parcels in 1943 from Bush. A public road called San Marcos Road, gave access to parcels two through ten. In 1947, Griswold obtained a special use permit (SUP) from the U.S. for a roadway over parcel one to access San Marcos Road. The SUP allowed a 66 foot wide right of way.

In 1949, Robert Hyde obtained the parcels and the SUP was reissued in his name. In 1976, Hyde conveyed his parcels to several different parties and each used the roadway to access San Marcos Road. Michael Linthicum acquired parcel one from the U.S. in the year 2000. Linthicum sought to block access to the roadway, as alternative routes could be developed to access San Marcos Road.

The trial court found "Equitable Easement" as the roadway was the "only possible access way" and no other feasible alternative existed. An equitable easement is an implied easement arising when a large piece of land is subdivided into adjacent pieces.

This claim was affirmed in part. The Appellate Court stated an Equitable Easement may be created if the encroachment was not the result of defendant's willful act. Further, the Plaintiff must not suffer irreparable injury by the encroachment and hardship to the defendant and it must not be greatly disproportionate to the hardship to the plaintiff.

The court agreed with the trial court that the encroachment was not the result of a willful act by the defendants. Further, there was no feasible alternate route to access San Marcos Road and Linthicum would not be foreclosed from fully developing his parcel.

The balance of hardships weighed in favor of the defendants as an injunction would have denied defendant's access to their homes.

The trial court had a legal and factual basis to find an "Equitable Easement" along a roadway over plaintiffs' property where that roadway was the only possible access way to the defendant's parcels. An alternative access could not be developed and plaintiffs would not be deprived of the full use of their property.