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Monday, November 14, 2011

Warsaw v. Chicago Metallic Ceilings, Inc. case brief

Warsaw v. Chicago Metallic Ceilings, Inc.

FACTS
Chicago Metallic Ceilings (P) sued Warsaw (D) in a dispute over a prescriptive easement.

ISSUE
Is one who acquires a valid prescriptive easement over another's property required to compensate the person for
1) Fair market value of the easement, or
2) The cost of removing or relocating any encroaching structures which interfere with the use of the easement?

HOLDING

The court stated that an easement exists and that D should be required to tear down the warehouse and the P does not have to compensate D for the easement.  

RULES
-The party claiming a prescriptive easement must show use of the property which has been open, notorious, continuous, and adverse for an uninterrupted period (5 years in advance).
-There must exist a definate and certain line of travel for the statutory period.
-Slight deviations will not defeat the easement.  Substantial changes which break the continuity of the course of travel will destroy a claim to prescriptive rights.
-Continuous use of an easement over a long period of time without the owner's interference is presumptive evidence of its existence.

ANALYSIS

-Hostile:  Did party refuse to grant an easement? 
     No permission was given or contemplated.
Was an encroaching structure willfully erected with knowledge of the claimed easement?
     Mandatory injunction + costs (even if great) may be issued by the court.
-An easement may be obtained without incurring any liability to the underlying property owner.
-Title by prescription is sufficient against all (in rem)

DISCUSSION
-A prescriptive easement exists where the party seeking access to the land has maintained (1) open, (2) notorious, (3) continuous, and (4) adverse use of a path over the land.
-The path should be well-defined, but it does not need to remain absolutely the same from use to use. -The facts established the existence of an easement in favor of D.
-The truck drivers regularly used a specific portion of D’s land to access P’s loading docks. Although no two drivers traversed exactly the same path, the trucks followed a consistent route over the land. D has no right to complain about having to remove his warehouse because it continued to build the warehouse even after P sued. D therefore gambled on the outcome of the litigation and he lost.
(This is not a case in which one landowner has accidentally intruded upon the land of another).
Since a prescriptive easement has been established, it would be inappropriate to require P to compensate Warsaw.
-The law of easements is designed to reduce litigation and to stabilize longstanding uses of property. This purpose would not be served if D was allowed to demand compensation.

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