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Sims v. Caldwell

A-4715-00T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

EASEMENTS—An easement specifically limited to ingress and egress cannot be used by its beneficiary for parking unless an easement by prescription arises through continuous, open, and notorious use by color of right for more than twenty years.

Farm owners claimed that an easement granted by their neighbors’ predecessor-in-title granted them and clients of their horse barn the right to park and turn their trucks and trailers on the easement. They also claimed that the neighbor’s construction of a driveway caused their property to flood, resulting in a loss of business to their farm. After a non-jury trial, the lower court found that the easement allowed entry to and exit from their farm along the easement area but did not permit them or their customers to park or turn their vehicles on the easement. The lower court also found that the neighbors were responsible for certain repairs to the area damaged by flood, but that the property owners were not entitled to damages for loss of business. The Appellate Division modified, but affirmed, the judgment. With respect to the easement, the Court noted that its grant was not dictated by a provision in the contract of sale of the property to the property owners, but rather in the deed that conveyed title to the premises. The deed was specific in limiting the easement area to ingress and egress and could not be interpreted to permit parking over the easement area. The Court rejected the property owners’ claim that theirs was an easement by prescription that allowed parking since the requisite time had not passed. An easement by prescription exists when another one’s property is used, and such use is open, notorious, under color of right, and continuous for a period of twenty years. Until the farm owner began using the easement for customer parking, the use of the easement was not open and notorious. The time period began when the farm owner began using the easement for the parking in violation of the deed easement. Since the farm owner only began parking seven years prior to bring suit, the required twenty years did not pass. With respect to the business loss claim, the Court noted that the damages were speculative. At the time of the flooding, the property owner’s business had just started and there was no way to determine, absent speculation, what the profits would have been but for the flooding. Further, the farm owners had a duty to, but failed to, mitigate their losses.


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