Law School Case Brief
Hurlocker v. Medina - 118 N.M. 30, 878 P.2d 348 (1994)
Easements by necessity arise from an implied grant or reservation of right of ingress and egress to a landlocked parcel. In order to uphold an easement by necessity, a court must find a conveyance of a portion of the grantor's land that, after the severance of the two parcels, creates a necessity to pass over one of them to reach any road or public street. An easement by necessity requires: (1) unity of title, indicating that the dominant and servient estates were owned as a single unit prior to the separation of such tracts; (2) that the dominant estate has been severed from the servient tract, thereby curtailing access of the owner of the dominant estate to and from a public roadway; and (3) that a reasonable necessity existed for such right of way at the time the dominant parcel was severed from the servient tract.
Two contiguous parcels of property were at one time part of the same tract of land. They were divided in 1957 but under common ownership between 1963 and 1984. A conveyance in 1984 left one parcel without access. The new owners that acquired that parcel filed suit against the adjacent property owners seeking to impose an easement by necessity on their adjacent lot. The trial court granted summary judgment to the adjacent property owners on the ground that the properties had been divided and treated as separate lots and therefore, the unity of title required to support an easement by necessity was lacking. The new property owners appealed.
Was the summary judgment, which denied the easement of necessity, in favor of the adjacent property owner proper?
The court of appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment for defendants in plaintiff's action to establish an easement by necessity upon defendants' property, and remanded the case back to the trial court. The appellate court held that the unity of title necessary to sustain an easement by necessity did not require that the dominant and servient estates be a single undivided parcel prior to the conveyance at issue. Specifically, New Mexico law does not require the dominant and servient estates be carved out of a single undivided parcel. The court held that the creation of an easement by necessity depended upon the intent of the parties and that such intent could not be determined as a matter of law from the record.
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