In 1993, Delores Daniels owned 1670 Spring in St. Helena, CA. Silvio Pelandini owned the next-door property, 1664 Spring. In March of that year, Daniels filed a complaint against Pelandini (and all unknown persons) to quiet title in, and reform her deed to include, two strips of land along the opposite borders of her property at 1670 Spring. She asked for a 15 foot wide strip along the western border and a 12 foot wide strip along the eastern border. In June of 1993, the Trial Court entered judgment quieting Daniels' title to both strips of land. In September of 1993, Daniels granted Pelandini an easement running with the land over the 12 foot strip. The easement was described as a secondary right-of-way over the existing roadway surface within the easement location, for the purpose of emergency ingress and egress. It specifically excluded primary access.
In 1998, the Smiths purchase 1670 Spring. In 2004, the McBride family acquires title to 1664 Spring. In 2004, Lindsey Vickers owns 1660 Spring. Vickers and McBride execute an agreement granting McBride a "driveway easement" within the western border of 1660 Spring for vehicular and pedestrian ingress, egress, and access... Kathleen McBride becomes the sole owner of 1664 Spring in July 2013.
In 2014, the Smiths "erected permanent fixtures in said driveway to impede [McBride] and block her access to her property." The Smiths built a fence, including a large pole and substantial chain, blocking access to the area with the easement that was only supposed to be used for emergency purposes. McBride sued, claiming she used that driveway every single day and wished to continue to do so.
McBride's first complaint claimed trespass. However, it was the Smiths' property, and McBride could be considered the person trespassing. The Smiths filed general and special demurrers to the complaint, arguing, among other things, that McBride did not and could not allege facts to establish her right to exclusive possession of a shared driveway. McBride used the driveway with the Smiths' expressed permission. The Smiths further claimed that the allegations and judicially noticeable facts showed that the Smiths did not prevent McBride from accessing her property. The Trial Court sustained the Smiths' demurrer with leave to amend.
In McBride's first amended complaint, she claimed that she had to drive onto 1660 Spring in order to access her property at 1664 Spring. This would force her to trespass onto 1660 Spring, among many other claims. The Trial Court sustained the Smiths' demurrer stating that McBride cannot trespass onto property she already owns, again with leave to amend.
McBride's second amended complaint supplemented her factual allegations in an effort to state claims for trespass, forcible detainer, nuisance, and prescriptive easement. She stated that the driveway easement terminates before 1664 Spring, and therefore she is forced onto the secondary easement in order to access her property. She also supplied additional facts about the "chain, pole, and wood dividers" the Smiths erected that "prevents Plaintiff from reasonably accessing 1664 Spring Street." The maps she provided appeared to be machine generated, but also had multiple hand-written notes on them. Other documents also had questionable authenticity. In February 2015, the Trial Court sustained the Smiths' demurrers to the forcible detainer claim without leave to amend. The Court granted McBride leave to amend her other claims because they contained many flaws.
McBride filed her third amended complaint in February 2015, which purported to state eight separate causes of action. She kept the four from the last complaint, although she changed her forcible detainer claim to a cause of action for forcible entry. She added four new causes of action to quiet her title to: 1. A right of way over the Western Border Easement, 2. An unrestricted right of way over the part of the road covered by the Secondary Access Easement, 3. An easement by necessity over the part of the road covered by the Secondary Access Easement, and 4. An equitable easement over the part of the road covered by the Secondary Access Easement. In June 2015, the court sustained without leave to amend, McBride's forcible entry claim and new causes of action to quiet title, finding that McBride had not alleged facts to satisfy the elements of these claims. The court did however, sustain the Smiths' demurrer with right to amend in regards to trespass or nuisance claims. The court gave two reasons for that, 1. It wasn't clear if the chain attached to the pole was stretched across the entire 12 foot easement area, or invaded other areas, and 2. McBride's counsel stated that McBride had recently sold 1660 Spring, which may impact her use of that property to gain access to 1664 Spring.
McBride filed her fourth amended complaint alleging, among other things, factual allegations into causes of action for trespass, nuisance, and prescriptive easement. She argued that installing encroachments in the Secondary Access Easement constituted a trespass and a nuisance because they prevented her from using the easement, causing her damage. In September, 2015, the Trial Court sustained the Smiths' demurrers without leave to amend. The court specifically asked McBride to amend her third complaint to provide clarification about the Driveway Easement. Since she addressed the Secondary Access Easement and not the Driveway Easement, she failed to appease the court. She also failed to allege facts to establish that the Smiths' conduct prevented her from accessing her property. Several of the documents and facts she did bring contradicted each other and presented a confusing argument to the court. Since McBride had multiple opportunities to amend, the demurrers were sustained without leave to amend.
The Smiths filed a separate motion for attorney fees. There was an attorney fees clause included in the recorded grant of the Secondary Access Easement, which McBride opposed. The Trial Court granted the motion and awarded the Smiths $147,540.00. McBride appealed shortly thereafter.
The Appellate Court ruled the Trial Court erred by sustaining the demurrers. The two allegations that McBride used the Secondary Access Easement for primary access to her property, and that McBride and her associates used the easement on a daily basis, showed the Appellate Court that these allegations are sufficient to support a cause of action for a prescriptive easement under the terms of the 1993 recorded grant. The judgment was reversed and was remanded to the Trial Court for further proceeding consistent with the Appellate Court's decision. Both parties were ordered to bear their own costs on appeal.