Maricopa Cnty v. Rovey (12/29/2020)

February 11, 2021

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One adopts “easement corollary” to rule of strips and gores for interpretation of real estate conveyances.

In the 1970s and 80s, Maricopa County paved Jackrabbit Trail, Yuma Road, and Perryville Road (all near Buckeye) and maintained them as public roads.  Years later, a family purchased several parcels of land that directly abut these roads.  In 2017, the County filed three complaints to condemn portions of those parcels to accommodate planned expansions of Jackrabbit Trail and Yuma Road.

The landowners answered those complaints by asserting counterclaims for trespass and inverse condemnation and sought judgment to quiet title.  The superior court quieted title in favor of the landowners but held that the County held easements for public roadway use that predated the landowners’ interest.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Court first determined that the superior court had properly resolved the quiet title issue through application of the “strips and gores” rule.  That rule presumes that a parcel of land conveyed by an instrument that only describes the lot itself nevertheless means that the grantee takes title to the centerline of an abutting public road.  Under that rule, the landowners argued, it was clear they held title to the disputed roads and the County held no easement.  The Court noted, however, that there was an “easement corollary” to the strips and gores rule.  The easement corollary, in a nutshell, recognizes that the grantee takes title to the middle of the roadway but that, unless express language exists to the contrary, an easement exists for the public roadway.  

Judge Thumma authored the opinion for the Court, joined by Judges Williams and Weinzweig.