Tags: Property, Easement by esto
J.S. Holbrook and Lula P. Holbrook appealed a case against Ben Taylor and Edna Taylor in the Supreme Court of Kentucky in 1976. The case involves a dispute over the use of a roadway through another person's unenclosed woodlands. The right to use the roadway is being claimed through prescription and estoppel, both of which are contested. The lower court found that the right to use the roadway had not been established through prescription but had been established through estoppel. The appellants are appealing. The majority opinion explains that an easement can be created through express written grant, implication, prescription, or estoppel. The law in Kentucky states that an easement can be created when the owner of a tenement has openly, continuously, and under a claim of right adverse to the owner of the soil, used a way over the lands of another for at least 15 years. The trial court correctly found that the right to use the easement was not established by prescription. However, a right to use a roadway over the lands of another can be established by estoppel.
In this state, a licensee who has the right to erect structures and acquire an interest in the land cannot have their license revoked after they have expended money and erected improvements. The court granted Gibbs the right to use a roadway over Anderson's land because Anderson's predecessor had agreed to the construction and had seen Gibbs expend considerable money on it. The court applied the rule from Lashley Telephone Co. v. Durbin and reversed the lower court's decision. In McCoy v. Hoffman, the court affirmed Hoffman's right to use a passway over the landowner's land on the basis of estoppel. In Akers v. Moore, the court established the right to use the relocated portion of the highway as a public way by estoppel.
The court granted the plaintiffs an irrevocable license to use a roadway on the defendants' property through estoppel, as they had been allowed to use it for six years with permission and had even spent money to improve it. The defendants later attempted to prevent the plaintiffs from using the roadway and the plaintiffs filed a suit to remove the obstruction and declare their right to use the roadway without interference. The court found that the license to use the roadway cannot be revoked, as the plaintiffs' use of the roadway with the defendants' consent, including for construction of a $25,000 residence, demonstrates their right to use it. However, the element of time was not sufficient for the acquisition of the right of way by adverse possession.
Lower court was right in finding roadway use established by estoppel. Judgment upheld except for Justice Stephenson's dissenting opinion.
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