Catholic Bishop of Chicago v Chicago Title & Trust Co (IL)

Summary: Under Illinois law a prescriptive easement can only be established if the element of exclusivity is met. The party claiming exclusivity must prove that he or she possessed the property to the exclusion of the true owner.

Adverse Possession

Catholic Bishop of Chicago v Chicago Title & Trust Co, 2011 IL App (1st) 102, 389, 954 NE2d 797, 352 Ill Dec 714 (1st D, 2011).

Facts: The Catholic Bishop of Chicago owned property adjacent to a restaurant. The restaurant's property title was held in trust, with Chicago Title & Trust Co. serving as trustee. The Catholic Bishop's property included a paved walkway that separated the two properties. The restaurant used this walkway as an access route for an employee entrance, for deliveries, and to take out trash.

The Catholic Bishop filed suit against Chicago Title and Nick Karris, the restaurant owner, (the restaurant) seeking a declaratory judgment that they did not have a right to use the walkway. The restaurant counter-claimed that they had acquired a prescriptive easement over the property. The circuit court held that the restaurant did not have a prescriptive easement because they had failed to meet the requirement of exclusive possession, and granted summary judgment in favor of the Catholic Bishop. The restaurant appealed.

Holding: Affirmed. Under Illinois law, the requirements to establish an easement by prescription are the same as the requirements of adverse possession. The party wishing to establish the easement must show that the use of the land was "hostile or adverse, exclusive, continuous, uninterrupted and under a claim of right or title inconsistent with that of the true owner." The element that was lacking in this case was exclusivity. The defendants could not prove that the Catholic Bishop did not also use the walkway.

In fact, while Karris argued that he had no knowledge of whether the Catholic Bishop used the walkway, he admitted that "at no relevant time has the Catholic Bishop been altogether deprived of the use and possession of the walkway." The trial court found that not only could the Catholic Bishop use the walkway, "but did apparently." This was enough to defeat the claim to a prescriptive easement because the restaurant did not have exclusive possession of the land.

Opinion Year: 
By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 10:13pm