Judgment in Favor of Municipality in Land Dispute

Attorney Matthew Lindberg obtained judgment in favor of a Town in Worcester Superior Court in the trial of an action stemming from a contentious land dispute between property owners and the Town. The Plaintiffs, an individual and a mortgage company, jointly owned approximately 3 ½ acres of real estate, which was bisected by a paved road. Plaintiffs claimed that there never was a proper layout of the road, and that the Town and its residents were improperly using the road as a public way. Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that the Town’s alleged improper use and maintenance of a bridge located over a brook on the subject property had caused rust and debris to fall into the brook, which resulted in damage to an antique water turbine located on the plaintiffs’ property.

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 road.

The case was tried before a jury, with judgment entering in favor of the Town. Following appeal and remand, the case was re-tried, again resulting in judgment in favor of the Town. Immediately prior to the first trial, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims for property damage caused to the turbine. The day before the second trial was to commence, the plaintiffs were allowed to amend their Complaint to bring a statutory claim, alleging a taking in pais. In both trials, Attorney Lindberg argued, through the use of a Certificate of the Town Clerk, that the road was prima facie a public way. This argument was supported by evidence of prescriptive use in the form of testimony of several witnesses, including long-time residents and Town employees. These witnesses testified to their personal knowledge of the regular use and maintenance of the road going back fifty (50) years. Further, Attorney Lindberg played video footage of the subject roadway, and entered as exhibits public documents which referenced the road, including a map dating back to 1830.

At the conclusion of the second trial, the jury found the road to be a public way. The Court endorsed the jury’s finding and ruled that the street was a public way, entering judgment in favor of the Town.