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American Law

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Leahy v. Graveline, 82 Mass. App. Ct. 144 (2012) is a case on easements that are based on the 1892 plans. The case had been initiated by Monica T. Graveline Trust (trust) (the defendant) against the plaintiff, the non-waterfront lot owners in the Hyannis Park subdivision. The plaintiff had argued that they have exclusive possession and use of the Lewis Bay beach and subsequently sought the intervention of the appeals court to guard this claim. The defendant had also filed for a motion in the lands court after which the court ruled that the plaintiff had implied easement rights on the beach. However, the Court ruled in favor of the defendant and observed that the owners of the lots near the ocean had implied easement of access to the beach in line with the 1892 plans (JOHN J. LEAHY & others [Note 1] vs. MONICA T. GRAVELINE, trustee. [Note 2] 82 Mass.App.Ct. 144, 2012). The judge was guided by the advertisements that were placed in 1892 and the deed themselves. Therefore, the status quo is that there is a case of implied rights to use open lands that were depicted in the 1892 subdivision map.

However, additional steps can be taken to improve the law. One, the duration of the easement should be clearly stipulated in the easement. The ruling entered by the judge should have stated whether the easement is limited in time or limited to the duration of use. This is extremely important to limit the possibility of the grantee having a perpetual easement. Additionally, the laws on easement should clearly define how maintenance will be conducted. In this case, it should be clear on what maintenance responsibilities Monica T. Graveline Trust and non-waterfront lot owners in the Hyannis Park subdivision have. Furthermore, the indemnities and insurance clauses must be included in the easement. It should be clear how the premium will be paid; by who and when while also making sure the grantor is covered by indemnification.

Zoning – Catanzaro v. ZBA of Mashpee, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 1152 (2016) stems from the zoning dispute that emerged in 2012 when the defendants sought to raze and replace existing structures on their property. The defendants petitioned the board to be allowed to construct a new, five-bedroom dwelling as well as a pool as it would comply with the existing laws. The board granted them their request but the plaintiff challenged this decision in the land court. The plaintiff argued that the board had no authority to make this determination and that the decision made was not supported by material facts. However, the court sided with the defendants and held that the plaintiffs’ motion was insufficient to confer standing. Therefore, the status quo is that the defendant is permitted to construct the new structures. However, existing zoning laws can be improved in various ways. To begin with, the land board should be flexible and approach each issue on a case by case basis. That is, the laws should not be standardized as some cases are unique. Additionally, the density clauses can be changed to allow bigger buildings if all other factors remain constant. Furthermore, the zoning laws should be more flexible to allow differentiated neighborhood designs. That is, people should be allowed to develop neighborhood designs that encourage diversity, interaction, ease access to services while also improving the quality of life (CTB Edu, n.d). Also, the zoning laws should determine the minimum, maximum setbacks, or both.

Adverse Possession – Miller v. Abramson, 95 Mass. App. Ct., 828 (2019) is a case that surrounds adverse possession. In this particular case, Miller had acquired a thin triangle of land by adverse possession (or squatter’s rights). Miller had continuously mowed this particular land and therefore claimed possession of it. However, the Abramson’s (the plaintiffs), disputed Miller’s ownership of the land and argued that the lawn maintenance was insufficient to establish adverse possession under state law. However, the court entered the judgment on behalf of the defendants and held that the Millers had satisfied the adverse possession clauses. However, the specifics that govern adverse possession can be improved in several ways.

One, the time limitations should not be made uniform across all cases (Kim, 2003). Miller v. Abramson case shows that there is a standard time limitation in which the original owner should claim ownership of the land, failure to which a new occupier can claim ownership of the land (Kim, 2003). Therefore, if the time is ‘customized’, efficiency will be enhanced. Another way is to make property valuation clearer. That is, the laws should be amended to make it easier to value the property. This will make it easier to determine who between the original owner and the occupier has a higher valuation and as such, grant the property to the highest valuation.

Eminent Domain, Standing – Marchese v. Boston Redevelopment Authority, 483 Mass. 149 (2019) case involves the defendant, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the plaintiff, a local attorney. BRA granted a temporary ten-year taking of the Yankee Way to Red Sox where it would be playing its games. However, the local attorney challenged this decision on the basis of its legality and secondly, BRA did not initiate competitive bidding. Nevertheless, the court entered judgment in favor of BRA but the plaintiff has appealed. That is the status of the case is on appeal. Eminent Domain can be improved in a number of ways. One, there should be greater public involvement in the decision-making process. The Marchese v. Boston Redevelopment Authority case shows that there was little public involvement, an issue that attracted the legal challenge. Additionally, there should competitive bidding. The case shows that BRA engaged in single sourcing by granting the right of use to Red Sox. Therefore, the public should be allowed to bid on the tenders. Additionally, the bill of rights should be strengthened to ensure that people’s property rights are protected (Sierra IOWA Club, 2018).


Catanzaro v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Mashpee, 54 N.E.3d 608, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 1132 (Mass. App. Ct. 2016)

GARY MILLER & another [Note 1] vs. CHRISTOFFER ABRAMSON & another. [Note 2] 95 Mass. App. Ct. 828 (Superior Court, Middlesex County 2019).

JOHN J. LEAHY & others [Note 1] vs. MONICA T. GRAVELINE, trustee. [Note 2] 82 Mass.App.Ct. 144 (Massachusetts court 2012).


Kim, J.-Y. (2003). European Journal of Law and Economics, 16(3), 289–301. doi:10.1023/a:1025354606291 

Policies to Improve Eminent Domain. (2018). Retrieved 3 December 2020, from https://www.sierraclub.org/iowa/blog/2018/09/policies-improve-eminent-domain

Policies to Improve Eminent Domain. (2018). Retrieved 3 December 2020, from https://www.sierraclub.org/iowa/blog/2018/09/policies-improve-eminent-domain

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