Case of an Implied Easement

A Case Involving an Implied Easement and an Equitable Easement – Romero v. Shih

Updated on December 18, 2023

Easements make for unique cases, each with their own set of circumstances and outcomes. Here we explore one case, uncovering how the laws governing many of these circumstances allow the courts to come to a clear decision. This case employs both of the following legal concepts: the implied easement, and the equitable easement.

Romero v. Shih (2022) 78 Cal.App.5th 326

The California Court of Appeal ruled on the case of Romero v. Shih which involved issues relating to implied and equitable easements. (Romero v. Shih (2022) 78 Cal.App.5th 326).   These cases generally involve equity principles which allow the trial court significant discretion.

The case involved two neighboring properties in Sierra Madre, California – the Romero Property (the “Appellants”) and the Shih Property (the “Respondents”). The Respondents’ Property encroached on the Appellants’ Property in an encroachment area that was 1,296 square feet. The trial court found that the Respondents had an implied easement and alternatively, an equitable easement.

Implied Easement

The trial court found that there was an implied easement for the Respondents’ use of the encroachment area as a driveway, planter, and wall/fence. The trial court reasoned that the implied easement was not necessarily exclusive as the Appellants could have various subsurface uses of the area such as running underground pipes or cables.

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The Court of Appeals reversed this decision finding that there was no evidence that Appellants could utilize the subsurface of the encroachment area for any practical purpose and the possibility of running underground pipes or cables was not sufficient to make the implied easement non-exclusive.

Moreover, the Court of Appeals discussed that the evidence at trial showed the Appellants’ Property already had the necessary utilities and pipes to support their finding that the use cited by the trial court would have no practical purpose.

The Court of Appeals further explained that exclusive easements are generally disfavored and rare.  The Court of Appeal further explained that it was unaware of any case that  permits or prohibits exclusive implied easements.

The Court of Appeals held that an exclusive implied easement cannot be justified or granted unless:

  • 1) the encroachment is de minimis, or
  • 2) the easement is necessary to protect the health or safety of the public or for essential utility purposes.

Here, the Court reasoned that the encroachment was not de minimus because of the substantial square footage and nothing in the record showed the encroachment was necessary for any essential utility purposes or to protect general public health or safety.

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Equitable Easement

The trial court found that alternatively, the Respondents had an equitable easement as all the factors for the creating of an equitable easement were present.

Their decision included finding that Respondents were innocent parties with no knowledge of the encroachments and no basis to know of them, that Appellants would not suffer any irreparable harm from such encroachment, and that there were no viable, reasonable alternatives to easement.

The trial court further found that with an equitable easement, the Appellants would be entitled to compensation based on the diminution in value to their property.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s finding of equitable easement finding that the trial court created the equitable easement to make it limited in scope and duration and therefore did not abuse its discretion.

Easements are often complex matters to handle and and they require care and attention. Speak to an experienced attorney to help you save the time and effort needed to navigate the terrain.

The attorneys at Schorr Law specialize in not only easements, but all matters real estate. Contact us today to see if you qualify for a free 30-minute consultation. Call us at (310) 954-1877. You can also text us at (310) 706-2265, or send us a message in our contact form here.

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