A few weeks ago, the Appeals Court issued a decision that potentially affects several landlocked parcels in Aquinnah (Gay Head) on Martha's Vineyard. As a result of this decision (Kitras v. Town of Aquinnah, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 10 (2015)), which reversed and remanded a Land Court decision/judgment, these landlocked parcels have been deemed to have easement rights that have been in dispute for some time. Or at least that's what the majority opinion decided. There was a stong dissent written by Associate Justice Peter W. Agnes.
Initially, this post was going to be about the substantive portions of the disputed claims in Perry v. Nemira, 2015 WL 179045, 11 MISC 457157 (AHS) (Mass. Land Ct. Jan. 15, 2015), which focused primarily on claims of right via prescriptive easements and adverse possession. In a word, the decision is lengthy (mostly due to the various chains of title that must be parsed out) and hard to condense into a neat little blog post.
"'It is a principle of general application in Anglo-American jurisprudence that one is not bound by a judgment in personam in a litigation in which he is not designated as a party or to which he has not been made a party by service of process.'" Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 884 (2008), quoting Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32, 40 (1940). Likewise, strangers to a judgment do not generally have the standing to enforce the same. Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 750 (1975). These principles also find their expression in the requirement under the res judicata doctrines of claim and issue preclusion that there be identity of the parties in order for a claim to be barred or an issue closed for consideration by prior litigation. See, e.g., Heacock v. Heacock, 402 Mass. 21, 23-24, 25 (1988). These principles also reflect substantive and procedural Due Process concerns. People should have their days in court, and not be bound by others' days in court. It is for this reason also that default judgments, Treglia v. MacDonald, 430 Mass. 237, 242 (1999), and consent decrees, New York Cent. & H.R.R. Co. v. T. Stuart & Sons, Co., 260 Mass. 242, 248-249 (1927), have no preclusive effect in subsequent litigation.