Defense Verdict in Land Dispute Case

Attorney Matthew Lindberg obtained a defense verdict in Worcester Superior Court in an action stemming from a contentious land dispute between property owners and the Town of Douglas. The Plaintiffs jointly owned approximately 3 ½ acres of real estate on Cedar Street in Douglas, MA. Plaintiffs claimed that a land survey showed that they were the rightful owners of a portion of Cedar Street that bisected the property and that the Town was improperly using the land as a public way. Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that the Town did not properly maintain a bridge on the disputed portion of Cedar Street. As a result, rust and debris fell into the waterway under the bridge which resulted in damage to an antique water turbine located on the plaintiffs’ property, according to the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs claimed damages of approximately of $180,000.00, including claims for property damage and diminution in value to the real estate as a result of the Town’s alleged improper taking and use of the subject portion of Cedar Street.

Immediately prior to trial, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims for property damage caused to the turbine. Trial proceeded as to the property dispute. Attorney Lindberg established, through a Certificate of the Town Clerk, that Cedar Street was prima facie a public way. This position was supported by the testimony of several witnesses including private residents and Town employees as to their personal knowledge of the regular use and maintenance of Cedar Street as a public way going back fifty (50) years. Attorney Lindberg also entered as exhibits ancient maps, aerial photographs and a videotape showing the public’s continual use of the way.

The jury found that the plaintiffs failed to overcome the Town’s prima facie showing and, as a result, Cedar Street was found to be a public way. Judgment was entered in favor of the defendant, the Town of Douglas.