When a prescriptive easement is an easement

By Jennifer Felten

Hoffman v. 162 North Wolfe LLC

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This case involves a commercial transaction which occurred in 2010. The Hoffmans were the buyers in the transaction. Shortly after they purchased the property, the neighboring property owner, 162 North Wolfe LLC, claimed a landscape easement and prescriptive easement rights of ingress and egress over a portion of the Hoffmans’ property. The parties being unable to agree as to the validity of the easements, 162 North Wolfe LLC sued the Hoffmans to quiet title. The Hoffmans cross-complained, alleging (among other things) that 162 North Wolfe LLC and its members had defrauded them by falsely advising that they had no claims or interest with respect to the 170 Wolfe property.

The Hoffmans alleged two fraud claims, concealment/suppression of facts, and intentional misrepresentation. The fraud claims were based upon an alleged conversation approximately eight months before close of escrow between Hoffman and one of the LLC’s members wherein the issue of the LLC’s trucks going over the property that Hoffmans were looking to purchase was discussed. According to the Hoffmans, the result of the complaint regarding the vehicles crossing over 170 Wolfe was an assurance that it would be taken care of. After this alleged conversation and for eight months before escrow closed, the vehicles continued to cross onto 170 Wolfe. The Hoffmans observed these occurrences but neither raised the issue with the then-owner of 170 Wolfe, nor complained to the LLC.

Both the trial court and appellate court found for the LLC on the concealment/suppression claims, finding that there was no duty on the part of the LLC (a neighbor) to disclose that it claimed prescriptive easement rights. With regard to the intentional misrepresentation, the court found a lack of justifiable reliance by the Hoffmans on the purported statements of the LLC member to support their contention that his statement constituted an implicit representation of no easement.

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Jennifer Felten, Esq., Partner, felton, LLP, www.hhlawgroup.com, 699 Hampshire Road, Suite 105, Westlake Village, CA 91361, (805) 265-1031, [email protected].  Ms. Felten specializes in representing both individuals and legal entities, providing representation and guidance on a variety of real estate related matters.

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