On June 21, 2011, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, unanimously upheld Tashakori v. Lakis, successfully concluding Kenneth H. Martin and Barry Clifford Snyder’s hard fought battle for clients Ali and Mahnaz Tashakori. The landmark victory provided the Tashakoris with an equitable access easement, saving them from an innocent mistake that would have left their property landlocked and inaccessible, while greatly diminishing their property value.
Ali and Mahnaz Tashakori purchased a property with a house on it as well as an adjoining empty lot where they intended to build another home. In 2006 they sold the property with the existing home on it, while retaining the undeveloped lot. However, the Tashakoris did not reserve an access easement in favor of the retained undeveloped lot. Rather, they had been under the mistaken belief that their retained lot already had a recorded access easement. The Tashakoris’ mistaken belief was the result of their reliance upon inaccurate representations by a real estate broker, the prior owner, and the legal description in the preliminary title report. In fact, the Tashakoris learned that there was no recorded access easement to the empty lot, rendering it landlocked.
The Tashakoris were therefore confronted with the unenviable reality of owning a piece of land that they could not access. The home they wished to build upon the property would be unreachable and the value of their property would surely plummet. The Tashakoris approached Snyder Law seeking a solution.
Ken Martin and Barry Clifford Snyder took up the charge and brought suit on behalf of the Tashakoris in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Mr. Martin and Mr. Snyder sought to establish the Tashakoris’ right to ingress and egress over a small strip of land with a driveway owned by neighbors John and Mary Lakis. In August of 2009, after a bench trial before the Honorable Bob T. Hight, the trial court granted the Tashakoris an “equitable easement” over the driveway area. The Tashakoris’ property would be accessible after all; their dream home would become a reality.
However, the Tashakoris had one more roadblock to overcome. The Lakises appealed Judge Hight’s decision to the California Court of Appeal, Second District. They argued that (1) an equitable easement theory could only be raised as a defense to a property owner’s request for an injunction ordering the removal of an encroachment, (2) the “encroaching” use was not sufficiently long-standing; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to award the Lakises damages as compensation for the use of their driveway.
On June 21, 2011, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected each of the Lakises’ challenges to Judge Hight’s judgment, affirming the trial court on every ground. The decision has become an instant benchmark in real property litigation. More importantly, though, the decision has finally provided justice for the Tashakoris. In September of 2011, the Supreme Court denied the Lakises’ Petition for Review, officially cementing the outcome of this long and hard-fought battle.