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Felgenhauer v. Soni

California Court of Appeal
17 Cal. Rptr. 3d 135 (2004)


Facts

Jerry and Kim Felgenhauer (plaintiffs) bought property with a restaurant on it in 1974. A parking lot that belonged to a bank lay behind the Felgenhauers’ property, between the restaurant and a public alley. Over the next 14 years, deliveries to the restaurant came through the alley and across the bank parking lot. In 1984, the Felgenhauers sold their restaurant business, but not the real property, to James and Ann Enloe. The Enloes leased the restaurant building from the Felgenhauers, and deliveries continued across the bank parking lot. However, James Enloe said he never thought he had a legal right to use the lot and never claimed a right. On one occasion, the bank manager told Enloe the bank planned to fence off the lot. Enloe asked if the bank would put in a gate so he could still access the dumpster, and the bank manager agreed, but Enloe said he never talked to the bank about deliveries crossing the bank parking lot. The bank put in the fence in 1988 and sold its property to Ken and Jennifer Soni (defendants). The Sonis told the current restaurant tenant that deliveries could no longer cross the lot. The Felgenhauers sued to establish title to a prescriptive easement for deliveries to continue. The jury found the Felgenhauers had established continuous use for at least five years from 1982 to 1988, entitling them to a prescriptive easement. The Sonis appealed, arguing that the Felgenhauers’ use was not under a claim of right as California law requires.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gilbert, J.)

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