In this part II of our series on easement basics, we will discuss how easements are created. Broadly-speaking, easements are established in three ways: by (1) express grant/reservation; (2) implication; and (3) prescription. As to each of these theories, "[o]ne claiming the benefit of an easement bears the burden of proving the existence of that easement on the servient estate." Hickey v. Pathways Ass'n, Inc., 472 Mass. 735, 753-754 (2015). This burden extends to the extent and scope of any use rights over the Right of Way. Swensen v. Marino, 306 Mass. 582, 583 (1940) (scope); Hamouda v. Harris, 66 Mass. App. Ct. 22, 24 n. 1 (2006) (extent). Each theory of easement creation will be addressed in turn.
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.
Many people may not realize that in Massachusetts, "[a]n eminent domain taking in fee simple extinguishes all other interests in the subject property. In particular, where an easement exists, the taking of the servient estate will destroy the easement rights of the dominant estate." New England Continental Media, Inc. v. Milton, 32 Mass. App. Ct. 374, 376 (1992). This means that if an individual has easement rights over a parcel of land that is ultimately taken by eminent domain, those rights are terminated once the taking occurs.