Reversing a judgment in plaintiff’s favor, this decision holds that plaintiff is not entitled to an equitable easement over a disputed area of an adjoining property owner’s land because plaintiff was at least negligent in planting the disputed area with a permanent crop (pistachio trees) knowing that there was a lot line issue but without investigating to determine where the lot line was. Thus, plaintiff could not establish the first of the three elements needed for an equitable easement: (1) non-intentional, non-negligent encroachment, (2) the landowner will not suffer irreparable harm from continued encroachment, and (3) harm to the encroacher greatly disproportionate to harm to the landowner if the encroachment must be removed. Plaintiff also could not obtain a prescriptive easement over the disputed land because the easement it sought was equivalent to full fee ownership, precluding the defendant from any use of the disputed property. To obtain fee ownership, the plaintiff would have to sue for adverse possession, including showing he had paid the taxes on the property; prescriptive easement may not be used to circumvent that requirement. The court declines to follow Otay Water Dist. v. Beckwith (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 1041 which held to the contrary.
California Court of Appeal, Fifth District (Hill, P.J.); April 6, 2018 (published May 1, 2018); 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 390