Case Caption: Lori G. Malloy v. Carmen Reyes, et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2012-0081Date: 07/22/2014Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

In an action by the owner of a parcel of land on St. John, seeking a declaratory judgment that an unpaved trail at the southern tip of the east end peninsula – a portion of East End Road (Route 10) turning inland toward Newfound Bay and commonly referred to as Old Broad Road, which was a public right-of-way before the Virgin Islands became part of the United States in 1917 – remains a public right-of-way rather than a trail on private property, or alternatively that she is entitled to an easement and injunctive relief ensuring access to her property, the Superior Court erred in concluding that the Government abandoned the trail and that, as a result, the trail lost its public status. The court erred in deciding this issue sua sponte, without providing notice to the parties and an opportunity to brief this issue, and erred by applying a common law doctrine this Court has never addressed without conducting the appropriate three-factor analysis examining which common law rule Virgin Islands courts have applied in the past, next identifying the rule adopted by a majority of courts of other jurisdictions, and then finally-but most importantly-determining which common law rule is soundest for the Virgin Islands. While an official or explicit act of abandonment by the government is not required, and the intent to abandon a public easement can be shown through indirect and circumstantial evidence unequivocally manifesting either a present intent to relinquish the easement or a purpose inconsistent with its future existence, there was no such evidence here to support the Superior Court's finding that the public's right was extinguished through abandonment. The judgment holding that Old Broad Road is not a public right-of-way due to abandonment is reversed, and this matter is remanded for the Superior Court to determine the metes and bounds of this public easement.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion