May 19, 2009
This case contains a good discussion of the law of easements by necessity, which the court held did not apply in this case to provide access to plaintiff's property. This means plaintiff's property is completely landlocked because the parties had already stipulated that a prescriptive easement could not be established.
An easement by necessity arises by operation of law when 1) there is a strict necessity as when a property is landlocked and 2) the dominant and servient tenements were under the same ownership at the time of the conveyance giving rise to the necessity. The second requirement, while not categorically barred when the federal government is the common grantor, requires a high burden of proof to show 1) the intent of Congress to establish the easement under federal statutes authorizing the patent and 2) the government's lack of power to condemn the easement. Normally, a reservation of an easement in favor of the government would not be necessary because the government can obtain the easement by condemnation.
The court pointed out that there is a distinction between an implied grant and implied reservation, and favorably quotes a treatise that observes: "an easement of necessity may be created against the government, but the government agency cannot establish an easement by necessity over land it has conveyed because its power of eminent domain removes the strict necessity required for the creation of an easement by necessity."
Cal. Supreme Court (S159489) 4/27/09