Trustees of Boston College v. Boston Academy of Sacred Heart, Inc., 100819 MASUP, 16 MISC 000360 (HPS)

Docket Nº:MISCELLANEOUS 16 MISC 000360 (HPS), SUPERIOR COURT C. A. 16-CV-2231
Opinion Judge:Howard P. Speicher Justice
Party Name:TRUSTEES OF BOSTON COLLEGE, Plaintiff, v. BOSTON ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART, INC., Defendant. BOSTON ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART, INC., Plaintiff, v. TRUSTEES OF BOSTON COLLEGE, Defendant.
Case Date:October 08, 2019
Court:Superior Court of Massachusetts
 
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TRUSTEES OF BOSTON COLLEGE, Plaintiff,

v.

BOSTON ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART, INC., Defendant.

BOSTON ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART, INC., Plaintiff,

v.

TRUSTEES OF BOSTON COLLEGE, Defendant.

MISCELLANEOUS No. 16 MISC 000360 (HPS)

SUPERIOR COURT C. A. No. 16-CV-2231

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Department of Trial Court, Middlesex

October 8, 2019

DECISION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Howard P. Speicher Justice

Two prominent Boston-area Catholic institutions, Boston College, and Boston Academy of the Sacred Heart, commonly known as Newton Country Day School, ("NCDS") have been amicable and cooperative neighbors on their adjacent campuses in Newton for forty-five years. Notwithstanding their otherwise friendly relations, a dispute has arisen regarding ownership of and rights on the private way that marks the boundary between the two prominent campuses along Centre Street. Despite the parties’ best efforts to resolve their differences on their own, they find themselves before the court seeking a determination whether Colby Street in Newton is owned wholly by Boston College, whether it is owned to the center line by Newton Country Day School, or whether, if the road is owned by Boston College, on various theories, NCDS has rights in the road.

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, each asserting certain ownership or rights in the disputed way as a matter of law. NCDS, in a related Superior Court action, has also asserted a claim for breach of the warranties in its deed from a common grantor, for which it argues Boston College is liable. NCDS also asserts a counterclaim claiming a prescriptive easement on the disputed way; Boston College has moved for summary judgment in its favor on this claim as well. For the reasons stated below, I rule on the basis of the undisputed facts in the record that Boston College owns the entirety of Colby Street, not subject to any rights of NCDS, except that summary judgment is denied on the prescriptive easement counterclaim. That claim will proceed to trial.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The plaintiffs, Trustees of Boston College ("Boston College"), filed a complaint in the Land Court on June 29, 2016. In its complaint, Boston College asserted five claims: Count I, for reformation of the deeds to the parties by reversing the order of recording of the deeds to reflect the intent of the parties; Count II, for declaratory judgment that Boston College has all right, title, and interest in the disputed way and the defendant has none; Count III, a try-title claim under G.L. c. 240, § § 1-5; Count IV, a trespass claim; and Count V, a nuisance claim.

The defendant NCDS, filed its answer and counterclaim on August 4, 2016, asserting multiple affirmative defenses and three counterclaims: Count I, for declaratory judgment that it has rights pursuant to G. L. c. 183, § 58, the derelict fee statute; Count II, for declaratory judgment on a theory of easement by prescription; and Count III, for breach of warranty of deed covenants. NCDS further asserted, as affirmative defenses, that the doctrines of easement by estoppel or easement by implication grant it rights in the use of the disputed way.

NCDS also filed an action for breach of the covenants in its warranty deed in Superior Court. By administrative order of the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, I was assigned to sit as a Superior Court judge for the purpose of hearing this related action.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on May 13, 2019. NCDS filed a motion for summary judgment in the Land Court case claiming title to the center line of Colby Street as well as a right to use the entirety of Colby Street. NCDS also filed a motion for partial summary judgment establishing liability in its Superior Court case. Boston College filed its own motion for summary judgment in the Land Court case, claiming fee title to the entirety of Colby Street as a matter of law and further arguing that NCDS’s prescriptive easement claim should be denied on the undisputed facts. Boston College filed a cross-motion for summary judgment in the Superior Court case on June 7, 2019.

A summary judgment hearing was held on August 28, 2019, and I took the matter under advisement on that date.

FACTS

The following material facts are found in the record for purposes of Mass. R. Civ. P. 56, and are undisputed for the purposes of the pending motions for summary judgment: 1. The plaintiff, Boston College, is a not-for-profit organization operating a university in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts.1 Boston College presently owns a parcel of land in Newton2 where it maintains its law school campus and a number of freshman dormitories.[3]

2. The defendant, NCDS, is a not-for-profit corporation operating the Newton Country Day School in Newton.4 NCDS owns a parcel of land in Newton, which abuts the northern boundary of Boston College’s Newton campus, and which serves as the campus for the Newton Country Day School.5

3. Prior to June 28, 1974, Newton College of the Sacred Heart ("Newton College") owned all of the land presently comprising the Boston College Newton campus and the adjacent NCDS campus, and depicted as Lots A1, B1, and B2, on the "Plan of Land, Newton Mass." dated March 4, 1965, prepared by J.F. Hennessy, Civil Engineer, Brookline, Mass., which is recorded in the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds ("Registry") as Plan 1146 of 1965 in Book 10929, Page 407 (the "1965 Plan").[6]

4. As a result of financial difficulties, Newton College decided to transfer portions of its assets and land separately to the plaintiff, Boston College, and the defendant, NCDS.7 Newton College petitioned for and was granted a decree from the Supreme Judicial Court to liquidate all of its assets, sell its property, and dissolve.8

5. Following approval of the transaction by the SJC, on June 28, 1974, the parties participated in a joint closing, at which Newton College delivered the two deeds transferring portions of its Newton property respectively to NCDS and Boston College.9 NCDS was represented at the closing by Boston law firm Ropes & Gray, and Boston College was represented by the firms Goodwin, Procter & Hoar (as it was then known) and Kilroy, McNulty & Roddy.10

6. Colby Street, a private way also known as Colby Road ("Colby Street"), intersected the two adjacent parcels conveyed to NCDS and Boston College at the joint closing in 1974.11 Generally, Colby Street runs along the entire southern boundary of NCDS’s parcel, and along the entire northern boundary of Boston College’s parcel.12 The 1965 Plan depicts the "Proposed Property Line" between parcels A1 (the eventual Boston College property) and B1 (the bulk of the eventual NCDS property) as the northern edge of Colby Street.13 The exact location of the boundary between the two conveyed parcels is, of course, the nub of the present dispute, notwithstanding what the parties agree is shown as the boundary line on the 1965 Plan.

7. At the closing on June 28, 1974, Newton College executed and delivered a quitclaim deed (the "BC deed") conveying the southern portion of its land (parcels A1 and A2,14 or "southern parcel") to Boston College.15 The parcel was described in the deed by metes and bounds.16 Its northern boundary was described as "running along the northerly side of Colby Street."17 On its face, this language included the entire paved area and right of way comprising Colby Street in the conveyance to Boston College. The deed also included language stating that the parcel was conveyed "together with all of the Grantor’s right, title, and interest, if any ... in Colby Street[.]"[18] The BC deed was recorded on June 28, 1974, at 3:52 P.M., in the Registry in Book 12658, Page 294.19 As a result of this conveyance, Boston College currently owns the property depicted as parcel A1 on the 1965 Plan and parcel A2 as shown on a 1966 plan.20

8. Also at the closing on June 28, 1974, Newton College executed and delivered a warranty deed (the "NCDS deed") conveying parcels B1 and B2 ("northern parcel") as shown on the 1965 Plan to NCDS.21 The parcel was described by metes and bounds.22 Its southern boundary was described as "running along the northerly side of said Colby Street[.]"23 On its face, this conveyance placed NCDS’s southern boundary on the northern edge of Colby Street, with the entirety of the Colby Street pavement and right of way on property conveyed to Boston College, to the south of the parcel conveyed to NCDS. The NCDS deed was recorded on June 28, 1974, at 3:52 P.M., in the Registry in Book 12658, Page 286.24 NCDS currently owns the property depicted as parcels B1 and B2 on the 1965 Plan.[25]

9. As conveyed to NCDS, parcel B1, the bulk of the NCDS campus, has, in addition to its boundary on the northern edge of Colby Street...

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