Cieszko v. Clark – Case Brief Summary (North Carolina)

In Cieszko v. Clark (1988) 92 N.C.App. 290, the plaintiffs argued, as here, that laches cannot bar a claim for an easement by necessity. The North Carolina Court of Appeals wrote plainly:

"We do not accept this contention. Easements by necessity cannot be lost through mere misuse over a period of time. The doctrine of laches, however, is not based upon mere passage of time; it will not bar a claim unless the delay is (i) unreasonable and (ii) injurious or prejudicial to the party asserting the defense. Whether a delay constitutes laches depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. Therefore, we decline to hold that laches may never bar a claim for an easement by necessity." (Id. at pp. 460-461.)

The Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment, finding triable issues of fact whether the grantor's delay was unreasonable and whether the grantees suffered the requisite prejudice. (Id. at p. 461.)