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Patterson v. Paul

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
863 N.E.2d 527 (2007)


Facts

In 1986, a large tract of land was divided into three smaller lots. Each lot had a view of Little Pleasant Bay. Each of the three deeds included a view easement over the other lots. Each view easement prohibited the construction of any building that would block the view of another lot. Further, each easement permitted the easement holder, upon notice, to enter onto the other lots to trim the tops of trees should they begin to block a lot’s view. The view easements were not limited in duration. David Patterson and Deborah Allen (plaintiffs) owned the middle subdivided lot. Gertrude Paul (defendant) and Katherine and Rives McGinley (defendants), respectively, owned the other lots. The plaintiffs planted trees and other vegetation along each property line. In 2003, Paul gave notice to the plaintiffs that she would be trimming some of this planted vegetation in accordance with her view easement. The plaintiffs brought suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that the easements were limited to 30 years in duration pursuant to a state statute that limited by default the duration of land restrictions that did not themselves expressly contain a duration. The land court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that the easements were affirmative easements and thus not restrictions on land use and not subject to the 30-year statutory limitation. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the view easements were negative easements and thus restrictions on land use.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Spina, J.)

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