Kitras v. Town of AquinnahAnnotate this Case
At issue in this case was a 1878 partition of Native American common land in the town of Gay Head, which is located on the western coast of Martha’s Vineyard and is connected to the rest of the island by an isthmus. Two commissioners appointed by the probate court partitioned the common land into hundreds of lots to be held in severalty by members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. The commissioners, however, did not include express easements providing rights of access, leaving the lots landlocked. In 1997, Plaintiffs, owners of several lots created by the partition, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking easements by necessity over the lots of Defendants. Ultimately, a Land Court judge concluded that there was sufficient evidence to rebut the presumed intent of the commissioners to create access easements, and therefore, easements by necessity did not exist. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that Defendants presented sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption that the commissioners intended to include rights of access.