M.N.V. Holdings LC v. 200 S. LLC

Decision Date09 July 2021
Docket NumberNo. 20200626-CA,20200626-CA
Citation494 P.3d 402
CourtUtah Court of Appeals
Parties M.N.V. HOLDINGS LC, Appellant, v. 200 SOUTH LLC, Appellee.

Scott O. Mercer and J. Adam Knorr, Salt Lake City, Attorneys for Appellant

Greggory J. Savage and Gregory S. Roberts, Salt Lake City, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and David N. Mortensen concurred.

Amended Opinion1

HARRIS, Judge:

¶1 M.N.V. Holdings LC (MNV) claims to own a prescriptive easement across property owned by 200 South LLC (Developer), and filed a lawsuit seeking recognition of that easement. The district court dismissed MNV's suit on summary judgment, and MNV now appeals. We reverse and remand.


¶2 Developer recently purchased two contiguous parcels of property (the Property) on the northwest corner of 200 South and State Street in downtown Salt Lake City. Over the past few decades, the Property has been occupied by a fast-food restaurant and a surrounding parking lot. However, Developer has received approval from municipal authorities to construct a high-rise apartment building, known as Kensington Tower, on the Property, and intends to begin construction in summer 2021.

¶3 MNV owns two contiguous parcels of property (the MNV Parcels) located along State Street immediately to the north of the Property; one of the parcels is occupied by a pawn shop and the other by a retail tobacco specialty store.2 MNV has owned one of the parcels since 1995, and it purchased the other in 2018. Both of the MNV Parcels have storefronts abutting State Street, but have no area for parking along State Street; the only available parking on the MNV Parcels is found on the west side (that is, the back side) of the parcels, where there is "limited vehicle parking and a garbage collection area." At any given time, "up to four to five" cars can be parked "directly behind [the] building" in this area. But due to the configuration of the MNV Parcels and surrounding properties, the MNV Parcels’ rear parking area can be accessed only by crossing someone else's property: either by crossing the Property's parking lot via access from State Street or 200 South, or by crossing another adjacent landowner's property via access from a side street known as Plum Alley.3

¶4 MNV asserts—and we assume, given the procedural posture of this appeal, that MNV's assertions are true4 —that, for at least twenty years, its employees and invitees (collectively, the MNV Invitees) have crossed the Property's parking lot, on more or less a daily basis, to access the small parking area on the west side of the MNV Parcels. However, because the Property lies on a corner, and has at least three different curb cuts providing public access points for automobiles, the MNV Invitees have not always used the exact same route to cross the Property. Sometimes, the MNV Invitees would enter the Property from a State Street curb cut, just north of the fast-food restaurant, and make their way west over the Property parking lot to reach the MNV Parcels’ parking area (Route 1). Other times, the MNV Invitees would enter the Property from a curb cut along 200 South, immediately west of the fast-food restaurant, and travel north and then west across the Property parking lot to reach the MNV Parcels’ parking area (Route 2). And on still other occasions, the MNV Invitees would enter the Property from its westernmost 200 South curb cut, and travel north across the Property parking lot to reach the MNV Parcels’ parking area (Route 3). While all three of the Routes use different points to access the Property, all three have the same endpoint: the northwest corner of the Property, adjacent to the MNV Parcels’ back parking area.

¶5 Usage of the three Routes varied depending on which direction the MNV Invitees were coming from, which direction they were going, and the time of day; sometimes the MNV Invitees would use one Route, and sometimes another. For instance, one MNV employee averred that it was "easier to turn ... left on 2[00] South than it would be to turn left on State Street," and as a result she would more often use one of the 200 South entry points (Routes 2 and 3), rather than the State Street entry point (Route 1). Another employee stated that he usually turned left onto the Property via the State Street curb cut (Route 1) because he would often "be coming north" via State Street on his commute. And the longtime owner of the pawn shop maintained that customers or vendors bringing "large items" to sell would often use Route 1 to access the MNV Parcels’ parking area to deliver their items. But despite variations in use by particular individuals on particular days, the MNV Invitees—viewed in the aggregate—claim to have used all three Routes interchangeably, regularly, and continuously for over two decades.

¶6 After learning of Developer's plans to construct Kensington Tower, MNV filed this lawsuit in November 2019, seeking a declaratory judgment recognizing the existence of a "prescriptive easement over the [Property] and quiet[ing] title to such easement in favor of MNV." During discovery, several of the MNV Invitees were deposed and testified about their own use, and their observations of others’ use, of the Property to access the back side of the MNV Parcels, as described above. After completion of discovery, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. In its motion, MNV asserted that there was "no genuine dispute that MNV me[t] each element of its prescriptive easement claim," and asked the court to enter judgment in its favor recognizing the easement. For its part, Developer asserted in its motion that MNV had failed, as a matter of law and undisputed fact, "to demonstrate a prescriptive easement that follows a definite and certain path." In essence, it argued that, because the MNV Invitees had used three different pathways over the years, rather than just one, MNV could not prove continuous use over any particular route.

¶7 After full briefing and argument, the district court granted Developer's motion and denied MNV's. The court determined that the MNV Invitees’ use of the Property "was not continuous ... because they used three separate claimed paths to or from the different curb cuts," and concluded that therefore "MNV's prescriptive easement claim fail[ed] as a matter of law."


¶8 MNV now appeals the district court's order granting Developer's summary judgment motion.5 We review a district court's summary judgment ruling "for correctness, giving no deference to the [district] court's decision." See Bahr v. Imus , 2011 UT 19, ¶ 16, 250 P.3d 56.


¶9 The main question presented by MNV's complaint is whether MNV has acquired a prescriptive easement over the Property. "To attain legal recognition of a prescriptive easement in Utah, the claimant must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the claimant's use of another's land" was (1) "open and notorious," (2) "continuous," and (3) "adverse" (4) "for a period of twenty years." Judd v. Bowen , 2017 UT App 56, ¶¶ 10, 16–33, 397 P.3d 686 (quotation simplified), cert. review revoked , 2018 UT 47, 428 P.3d 1032 (written opinion dismissing previously-granted certiorari petition as improvidently granted); accord Harrison v. SPAH Family Ltd. , 2020 UT 22, ¶ 28, 466 P.3d 107. The district court granted Developer's motion for summary judgment, ruling that MNV could not make the necessary showing. In particular, the court grounded its ruling in the second element listed above, and determined that, as a matter of law, MNV could not show continuous use of any particular route for the requisite twenty years. Because the court's ruling was based entirely on its belief that MNV had failed to make the requisite showing on that second element, we focus our analysis on that element.6

¶10 The second element requires MNV to show that its use of the Property was "continuous" during the entire twenty-year prescriptive period. See Judd , 2017 UT App 56, ¶ 10, 397 P.3d 686. The district court determined, as a matter of law, that MNV's use was not continuous because "MNV's use was not confined to a regular route" but instead was dispersed over "three separate claimed paths to or from the different curb cuts." In reaching this conclusion, the district court relied on Lund v. Wilcox , 34 Utah 205, 97 P. 33 (1908), a case in which a prescriptive easement claimant had established a dirt "roadway" over a neighbor's "wild, uncultivated, and unfenced" property, which roadway "practically remained in the same place" over the prescriptive period, except for a portion that was altered to avoid a "washout" that occurred partway through the prescriptive period. Id. at 34. Thus, the claimant used one path prior to the washout, then used a somewhat different path after the washout, and needed both time periods to count in order to meet the twenty-year requirement. Id. at 34–35. In that case, our supreme court determined that the claimant's change of route during the prescriptive period was "a deviation" that "destroy[ed] the continuity of use required" to establish a prescriptive easement. Id. at 35 (also stating that "[t]his change broke the continuity of use by [the claimant]").

¶11 In our view, the district court's reliance on Lund was misplaced. In Lund , the claimant at no point asserted that he had used both routes during the same time period; rather, he used one route for a period of time, then switched to the other following the washout. See id. at 34. But he had not used either of the two routes in question for a lengthy enough period of time to satisfy the twenty-year requirement for either one individually, and was therefore trying to combine his years of use over the first route with his years of use over the second route. See id. at 34–35. This the court refused to allow, stating that "a prescriptive right of way cannot be acquired by tacking together two distinct periods of use...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT