A prescriptive easement is an implied easement premised upon the use of another's property rather than the language in a deed. The creation of a prescriptive easement requires that the use of the property be, for the full prescriptive period, adverse, under a claim of right, continuous, uninterrupted, open, visible, exclusive, and with the knowledge and acquiescence of the owner of the servient estate. The prescriptive period in Tennessee is 20 years.
This case involves a dispute regarding the use of an abandoned county road. The road runs through the land of John George ("Appellee"), who sought to deny his neighbors, Thomas and Bobbye Hager ("Appellants"), access to the road. The Hagers brought suit claiming they acquired rights to use the road through adverse possession, a private access easement pursuant to the abandonment of a public road, or a prescriptive easement. The trial court found the Hagers established the creation of a prescriptive easement but limited their right to maintain the easement to emergency conditions only. The Hagers argue the trial court erred in restricting their ability to reasonably maintain the easement. Mr. George contends the trial court erred in finding the Hagers acquired rights in the road through a prescriptive easement. We find the trial court correctly held the Hagers acquired a prescriptive easement but that a right to conduct reasonable maintenance is a necessary incident of an easement by prescription. Accordingly, on appeal, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.
Did the trial court correctly grant the Hagers a prescriptive easement?
The trial court correctly held the neighbors acquired a prescriptive easement because a metropolitan district's easements did not preclude the neighbors from proving their exclusive use of the land in the sense necessary to establish a prescriptive easement. The trial court's order was overly restrictive of the neighbors' right to reasonably maintain the abandoned county road. Because the right to conduct reasonable maintenance was a necessary incident of the easement by prescription, the court was to allow such maintenance and repair of the easement as was reasonably necessary for ingress and egress, taking into consideration the easements held by other parties.