New Jersey Appellate Court Holds Landowner Could Not Bring Trespass Claim Because He Lost Title to the Disputed Property When It Became Submerged

New Jersey’s Appellate Division recently affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff landowner’s trespass claim against his neighbors because the disputed property was below the mean water line, plaintiff had not obtained a grant of riparian rights from the State, and plaintiff therefore did not have the authority to regulate the property.  See Rapisardi v. Estate of Lange, 2018 WL 14739181 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2018).  In the case, plaintiff and defendants were neighbors, and their properties bordered a creek.  Plaintiff brought this action alleging that defendants trespassed on his property because they continued to use a “boat ramp” that was on his property—the boat ramp being just a depression in the ground used to launch boats into the creek.  Defendants did not dispute that they used the boat ramp on the property or that the disputed property was included in the legal description of the 1975 deed to plaintiff’s property.  Instead, they argued that the disputed property was completely submerged under the water and therefore was owned by the State.  In support of their argument, defendants proffered both a Tideland Search Certificate confirming that the State owns the waters up to the mean high water mark of the creek, as well as a survey showing the disputed property was completely submerged.  The parties cross-moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted defendants’ motion.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision.  Although it acknowledged that plaintiff’s deed included the disputed property, it found that this was not dispositive because of the apparently shifting direction of the creek.  When the property became submerged and fell below the mean high water line, plaintiff lost title to the property.  Thus, because there was no riparian grant from the State to the plaintiff, plaintiff did not have the right to restrict access to the boat ramp and defendants prevailed.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at, Michael Crowley at, or Dylan Goetsch at