An easement owner cannot claim another party has trespassed on their easement, because trespass involves interference with the plaintiff’s exclusive possession. Easement holders do not have a right to exclusive possession. They may claim nuisance, but only if the interference is substantial and unreasonable. But they can enlarge their rights by claiming prescriptive rights if they can show that they used the easement in a way that exceeded the use authorized in the grant of easement. These were the conclusions drawn by the court in a recent decision out of Napa County.
In McBride v. Smith, McBride owned a landlocked parcel in a residential neighborhood in St. Helena, Google map here. She was the beneficiary of two recorded easements that run parallel to each other: the Secondary Access Easement encumbering the Smiths’ property; and the Driveway Easement located on property “owned by 1660 Spring Street,” which “remains in full force and provides access to the alley that connects both easements to Spring Street.”
The Smiths were not pleased. First, they constructed “wood dividers” along the “entire length” of the easement. Second, the Smiths erected a heavy chain and large pole at the end of the easement, with the chain extending the entire width of the easement. Third, the pole was bolted to the ground and could not be removed without special tools or a high amount of strength. Fourth, “[b]oth the pole and chain as they exist now obstruct Plaintiff’s access. Even if the chain was removed, the pole would still block Plaintiff’s access.”