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A Road to Nowhere: Johnston Tobey Partner Argues Easement Case in Texas Supreme Court

To establish an easement by necessity, must a claimant prove the existence of a public roadway at the time of severance? That is the question at issue in Staley Family Partnership, Ltd. v. David Lee Stiles, et al., (No. 14-0591) argued in the Texas Supreme Court on October 14 by Johnston Tobey partner Chad Baruch.

Traditionally, an easement by necessity requires proving: (1) unity of ownership of the alleged dominant and servient estates before severance, (2) the claimed access is a necessity and not merely a convenience, and (3) the necessity existed at the time of severance. Hamrick v. Ward, 446 S.W.3d 377, 382 (Tex. 2014).

“Necessity” requires that the easement be required to permit access to the property (in other words, the property will be inaccessible without the easement), and also that the easement will permit access to some public roadway, either alone or in combination with some other easement or permissive use.

In this case, both the trial court and the Dallas Court of Appeals held that the party seeking the easement, Staley, fell short of the required proof elements by failing to prove the existence of any public roadway in the area at the time of severance in 1866. The Texas Supreme Court granted review to decide whether such proof was required to support an easement by necessity.

Johnston Tobey, PC of Dallas represented the Respondents, members of the Stiles family. JT lawyer Chad Baruch argued that absent proof of a roadway at the time of severence, Staley could not prove necessity because the Staley parcel could have been left inaccessible even with the granting of the easement. A decision in the case is pending.