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State Appeals Court Addresses Injunction in Access Easement Dispute

Rhode Island property owners have serious interests in maintaining public road access to their property when larger tracts of land are divided after a sale or other conveyance. Occasionally, tracts of property that are not adjacent to any public road require easements on adjoining property in order to be accessible and maintain their value. A state appellate court recently published an opinion addressing a dispute over such an easement.

The plaintiff in the recently decided appeal is a woman who was awarded a piece of property from the defendant, her ex-husband, as part of a divorce settlement agreement in 2010. The property at issue, which includes a home, is adjacent to other property owned by the defendant, and does not border on any public road. As part of the divorce settlement, the plaintiff was awarded the property, as well as an easement to use the adjoining driveway which was on land owned by the defendant. Under the agreement, if and when the defendant constructed a separate driveway from the plaintiff’s property to a public road, the easement would expire and he would regain exclusive use of the original driveway.

According to the appellate opinion, the plaintiff’s home was also adjacent to an abandoned road that gave her access to a public road, although she had no ownership interest in the abandoned road. Prior to her filing suit, the defendant physically blocked the driveway through his property, forcing the plaintiff to use the abandoned road to access the home. The plaintiff filed suit, requesting an injunction to force the defendant to remove the obstruction and to allow her to use the shared driveway. The defendant answered the suit, arguing that the public road access through the abandoned road was sufficient under the settlement agreement to extinguish the plaintiff’s easement to use the shared driveway.

The district court, and later the state Court of Appeals, agreed with the plaintiff’s complaint, and granted her request. The courts held that although the plaintiff was currently able to use the abandoned road to access the home, she had no actual ownership interest in that access, and if her access through the abandoned road was later restricted, her property and home would become essentially worthless without an easement on the defendant’s driveway. Because the divorce settlement agreement was entered with the intention that the plaintiff would have full ownership and use of the home and property that she was awarded, the defendant could not block her access. As a result of the appellate ruling affirming the district court’s grant of a permanent injunction to the plaintiff, her easement and usage rights to the shared driveway will be preserved.

Are You Facing A Road Access or Other Easement Issue?

If you are involved in a dispute concerning road access, utility access, or another easement issue, seemingly small details could drastically affect the value of your property and the ability to use your land. Contacting a skilled Connecticut or Rhode Island property law attorney might be essential to protecting your interests. The real estate attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC can help you defend your legal rights and ensure access to your property. With offices in Connecticut and Rhode Island, our dedicated real estate attorneys have helped thousands of clients with all types of real estate issues. Contact us to schedule an appointment with a qualified attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo today by calling 401-300-4055.

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