The California Court of Appeals recently held that a party adversely possessed an exclusive parking easement by using it for 17 years, even if it did not erect any physical barriers. See Valles v. Kim, 2020 WL 5088021 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020). In 1999, M & R Investment Company created an exclusive easement for parking in its parking lot, for the benefit of a related entity that owned property nearby. Plaintiffs purchased M & R’s property later that year, and the deed did not mention the easement, although the title policy listed it as an exception and plaintiffs were verbally informed of it. Nonetheless, plaintiffs continually used the parking spaces in the easement for themselves and their tenants. In 2015, defendants purchased the property that benefited from the easement, and immediately directed plaintiffs to stop using the parking spaces. In 2016, plaintiffs brought this action, alleging that they had repossessed the disputed property via adverse possession and extinguished the easement. After a bench trial, the trial court found that plaintiffs had met the elements of adverse possession and entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs extinguishing the easement.
On appeal, the Court affirmed. Defendants specifically challenged the trial court’s holding that plaintiffs had met the element that their possession was “adverse and hostile to the true owner,” arguing that plaintiffs’ use of parking spaces was transitory, and that, to prevail, “plaintiffs must have actually erected a barrier or made a permanent improvement on the easement that completely prevented defendants from using it.” The Court rejected this argument, finding that the easement was exclusive and that only defendants had the right to park on it. “Nonetheless, the evidence and inferences therefrom establish that starting around 1999 and continuing for 17 years, plaintiffs, their tenants, employees, and their deliverers, used the easement for parking, for trucks, and even left a boat trailer on the easement for two of those years.” Accordingly, the Court affirmed that plaintiffs’ use of the easement was hostile, and that plaintiffs adversely possessed and extinguished the easement.