The Appellate Court of Maryland has confirmed that an “easement to nowhere,” if it existed,
may be terminated by estoppel and adverse possession. In Holder v. Uncle Eddie’s Brokedown
Palace, LLC, the Court examined an express easement which included purported rights to
traverse lands not owned by the servient estate and how the conveyed rights, if any, may be terminated.
In Holder, Justin Young was the owner of the subject Parcel 3 and Uncle Eddie owned Parcel
414. Parcel 3 did not abut Parcel 414 but was separated by land owned by third-party Stonecrest
Development, LLC. In 1872, Aaron Cost, Stonecrest’s predecessor, granted Uncle Eddie’s
predecessor an easement crossing both Cost’s parcel as well as Parcel 3, which was not owned
by Cost. The trial court held—and the Appellate Court of Maryland affirmed—that Cost’s grant
was defective ab initio and remained defective as one cannot grant an easement to cross lands
owned by another. The resulting grant was an “easement to nowhere” and wholly unenforceable.
Recognizing the defective grant, Uncle Eddie argued in the alternative that it held an easement
by prescription. Even if such a prescriptive easement existed, however, it had been terminated by
estoppel and by adverse possession. To establish termination by estoppel, Young had the burden
to establish that Uncle Eddie failed to use the easement and acquiesced to Young’s actions. To
establish adverse possession of an easement, Young had the burden to not only satisfy the
traditional adverse possession elements but also that Young’s use of the land was “incompatible
or irreconcilable with the authorized right of use.” Uncle Eddie’s failure to use the easement
since, at least, 1988 together with Young allowing Parcel 3 “to return to nature” with the growth
of mature trees satisfied both termination by estoppel as well as adverse possession. Even if the
“easement to nowhere” could have been granted, any such grant had now been lost.
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