Backiel v Murphy, Sup Ct, Warren County, 2015

The firm represented the Backiels, owners of undeveloped lakefront property.  An unpaved driveway, built in the 1970s, connects the Backiel property to a public highway.  The driveway meanders through the woods over the property of two of the Backiels’ neighbors before it reaches the lake.   The Backiels secured an agreement with one of the neighbors to cross his property on the driveway but the Murphys blocked the driveway, preventing the Backiels from reaching their property.  The Backiels brought a lawsuit claiming that a “prescriptive easement” over the Murphy property had been established by their prior owners’ use of the driveway for access.  To prove the Backiels’ case, we located and secured the trial testimony of the original owner who had built the driveway, as well as the Backiels’ prior owner (Meyers) and her son.  The Meyers’ testified to their extensive use of the driveway to access the lakefront property from 1985-2001.  This evidence was so compelling that the Backiels’ did not need to testify at trial.  The  court ruled that the prescriptive easement over the driveway had been established by the Meyers’ in 1995, two years before the Murphys bought their property in 1997 (New York has a 10-year statute of limitations for this type of real property claim).   We also demonstrated that Murphy was aware of the driveway at the time he bought his property, based on an exception in his title insurance property.   The court ruled that the Backiels are now the owners of the prescriptive easement over the driveway to the lakefront property established by the Meyers, and enjoined the Murphys from blocking or obstructing the Backiels’ use of the driveway.