California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division
LESLIE WITHERSPOON HINRICHS, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Appellant,
GEORGE R. MELTON, as Trustee, etc., et al., Defendants, Cross-complainants and Appellants
Superior Court of Ventura County, No. 56-2011-00395805,
Rebecca S. Riley, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
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Law Firm and Brian A. Osborne for Plaintiff, Cross-defendant
and Appellant Leslie Witherspoon Hinrichs.
& Lester, Paul R. Huff; Fell, Marking, Abkin, Montgomery,
Granet & Raney and Craig S. Granet for Defendants,
Cross-complainants and Appellants George R. Melton and
Margaret Ann Melton, Trustees of the Melton California Trust
dated July 1, 2003.
& Lester and Paul R. Huff for Defendant,
Cross-complainant and Appellant the Eugenijus Valiulis
Revocable Living Trust dated October 2, 2012.
National Law Group and Raymond Perez, Jr., for Defendant,
Cross-complainant and Appellant Asquith Family Limited
by Gilbert, P. J., with Yegan, J., and Tangeman, J.,
Cal.Rptr.3d 16] GILBERT, P. J.
does a landowner whose parcel is landlocked gain access to
the property? In Linthicum v. Butterfield (2009) 175
Cal.App.4th 259 [95 Cal.Rptr.3d 538] ( Linthicum ),
we held that the trial court may grant the landowner an
equitable easement over a neighboring property. In
Linthicum, the party to whom an equitable easement
was granted had been using a road on neighboring property for
several decades. Here we hold, among other things, the court
may grant an equitable easement without there being a
preexisting use by the landowner seeking the easement.
the owner of a landlocked parcel of land, brought an action
against the owners of three neighboring parcels seeking to
establish easements for access to his parcel. The trial court
established access by finding an easement by necessity over
one parcel and a connecting equitable easement over another
parcel. The court found no easement over the third parcel.
owners of the parcels over which the court found easements
appeal. Plaintiff, dissatisfied with the route chosen by the
court, also appeals. We affirm.
1993, Leslie Witherspoon Hinrichs inherited two contiguous
parcels of real property from his mother. The southern parcel
is improved with a residence. The northern parcel is
unimproved. It contains a rocky ridge running east and west
along most of the parcel. In determining an access route to
this parcel, one must consider the difficulties imposed by
the ridge. When he was growing up, Hinrichs lived in the
residence on the southern parcel, but has lived in Alaska
since the 1980's. In 1999, Hinrichs sold the southern
parcel to the Asquith Family Limited Partnership (Asquith).
The conveyance left the northern parcel landlocked.
parcel owned by George R. and Margaret Melton lies to the
north and east of the northeast corner of the Hinrichs
Valiulis is a trustee of a living trust that owns a parcel to
the east of the other three parcels. The Valiulis parcel is
contiguous with the eastern boundaries of the Asquith and
Melton parcels, but is separated from the Hinrichs parcel by
the eastern portion of the Melton parcel.
the parcels are approximately 20 to 30 acres and are in a
rural setting. No parcel has direct access to a public road.
The closest public road is Thacher Road, lying to the south
of the parcels and separated from the parcels by private
property. Thacher Road runs east and west.
parties gain access to their parcels from Thacher Road
through Ladera Road, a private road running northerly from
Thacher Road. Ladera Road runs northerly into the Valiulis
parcel where it divides. Ladera Ridge Road runs easterly from
Ladera Road through the southern portion of the Asquith
parcel. Hermitage Road runs northerly from Ladera Road
through a portion of the Valiulis parcel, then bends
northwesterly running through the Melton parcel and
intercepting the northeast tip of the Hinrichs parcel.
the Meltons and Valiulis do not contest Hinrichs's right
to use Ladera and Ladera Ridge Roads. But the Meltons and
[218 Cal.Rptr.3d 17] Valiulis denied Hinrichs right of access
over any other portion of their parcels.
complaint sought an easement over what he characterizes as
the " historic trail." He claims the trail was
documented in a federal survey map as far back as 1868.
trail runs from the eastern edge of Hinrichs's parcel
through the southwest corner of the Melton parcel, across the
northeast portion of the Asquith parcel and into the eastern
portion of the Valiulis parcel where it connects with Ladera
Ridge Road. Hinrichs reserved an easement over the Asquith
parcel in the 1999 deed. The easement was intended to connect
with the trail as it passed over the Melton and Valiulis
parcels, but Hinrichs had no easement over those parcels.
trail is an unpaved path. The last time Hinrichs drove the
trail in a motor vehicle all the way to his property was in
1994. Prior to that, he drove the trail in 1993. The last
time he attempted to drive the trail in a motor vehicle was
in 2002. He stopped after only 50 feet because the trail was
so overgrown he did not want the vegetation to scratch his
time Valiulis purchased his parcel in 2003, there were
boulders blocking the trail as it entered his property from
Ladera Ridge Road. In 2004 or 2005, Valiulis added more
boulders to block the entrance to the trail. He used heavy
equipment to place the boulders and added a barbed wire fence
at the entrance to the trail. Valiulis testified he intended
to prevent everyone from using the trail.
2006, Hinrichs sued Valiulis for access over a portion of the
trail on Valiulis's parcel. Hinrichs dismissed the action
after the trial court denied his request for a preliminary
original complaint sought an easement over the trail. During
discovery, however, Hinrichs learned that Hermitage Road
intersects with the northeast corner of his parcel. He
amended his complaint to allege Hermitage Road as a possible
easement. Hermitage Road is a private improved road that runs
through the Valiulis parcel, then the Melton parcel north of
the trail, before it intersects with the northeast corner of
Hinrichs's parcel. Hinrichs's complaint describes
Hermitage Road as the " best access route."
trial court rejected Hinrichs's claim of an easement by
prescription or as appurtenant to a federal patent over the
historic trail. The court found that
if Hinrichs ever had an easement over the trail as it crosses
the Valiulis parcel, it has been extinguished by adverse
trial court granted Hinrichs an easement by necessity over
the Asquith parcel. Most of the easement is over an existing
driveway that runs northerly from Ladera Ridge Road. A
roadway over a relatively short area north of a parking lot
on the Asquith parcel has to be ...