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Randolph Town Center, L.P. v. County of Morris

374 N.J. Super. 448, 864 A.2d 1191 (App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

ADVERSE POSSESSION; EASEMENTS—The thirty year period required for obtaining adverse possession is the same period required to obtain a prescriptive easement regardless of whether the land is developed or uncultivated.

A real estate development company sued a municipality after the municipality began to pump out water through a culvert onto property owned by the company; the company planned to develop the property into a shopping center and the water drainage created wetlands which made any commercial development of the property either hard or impossible.

The municipality defended its conduct by claiming that it obtained a prescriptive easement to use the culvert, claiming it had done so for the twenty-year period needed to establish a prescriptive easement. The lower court subsequently ruled in the municipality’s favor. The company appealed, arguing that the lower court had utilized an incorrect time period for obtaining prescription.

The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the thirty-year period required for obtaining adverse possession is the same as the period required to obtain a prescriptive easement, and the lower court was in error when it distinguished between the two. The Court likewise held that this required time period applies to all types of property, and not just to uncultivated land or to woodlands. In a footnote, the Court also held that there was no support for the company’s additional argument that a municipality cannot obtain a prescriptive easement.

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