Holbrook v. Taylor
532 S.W.2d 763 (1976)

  • Holbrook bought some land in and soon after gave permission for a road to be built to get to a coal mine.
    • Holbrook received royalties from the mine company during this time.
    • After the mine closed, Holbrook built a rental house on his property and both he and the renter used the road for a few years, but after a while it fell into disuse.
  • Years later, Taylor bought some land next door to Holbrook and built a house. Holbrooke didn’t seem to mind Taylor using the road for a while, but eventually blocked access. Taylor used the road anyway. Holbrook sued.
    • Taylor claimed this was an extortion attempt to force Taylor to purchase the land from Holbrook.
  • The Trial Court found for Taylor. Holbrook appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the use of the road had not been adverse, continuous, or uninterrupted. Therefore, an easement had not been established.
    • However, the Court found that the use of a roadway over the lands of another may be established by estoppel.
      • This is known as an implied easement.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Court found that, since Taylor had taken actions in reliance of being able to use the road (aka constructing the house), and Holbrook had not objected to the use of the road during construction of the house, that effectively gave Taylor an unrevokable license (aka an easement) to continue to use the road.
      • The reliance doesn’t have to be money spent on the easement, it can be any investment (like building a house) when the value of that investment is dependent on retaining the easement.
  • Basically, this case said that if you allow someone to use your land, they might gain a legal right to your land that you never intended to give them.
    • Normally, in order to get an easement, you have to negotiate a deal with the owner of the land you want the easement on (which usually involves paying money). However, when you get an implied easement, like in this case, you don’t have to pay any royalties. Is that fair?
    • Note that this rule about implied easement by estoppel is not followed in many States. It’s relatively controversial.