In a recent case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed a Land Court decision holding that plaintiffs hold easement rights to access and use a beach in Hingham Harbor close to the parties' homes. Kane v. Martel, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1130, at *1 (2018). Litigation between the neighbors over beach rights had been ongoing for more than a decade when the Appeals Court rendered its decision on March 5, 2018, a fact representative of the often bitter and protracted nature of disputes over beach access between neighbors living on the water in Cape Cod and other Massachusetts vacation destinations.
An easement "creates a nonpossessory right to enter and use land in the possession of another and obligates the possessor not to interfere with the uses authorized by the easement." Patterson v. Paul, 448 Mass. 658, 663 (2007). In other words, a property owner can grant another party the right to use his property in certain ways - such as the right to enter and walk through it - without giving up ownership of the property. Disputes can arise, however, when either party misunderstands or abuses the rights involved.