Earlier this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion addressing at length “whether the requirement that the use be ‘adverse’ in the adverse possession context is coextensive with adverse use in the prescriptive easement context.” See Woodbridge Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Lo Viento Blanco, LLC, 2020 COA 34 (Woodbridge II), ¶ 2, cert. granted, No. 20SC292, 2020 WL 5405376 (Colo. Sept. 8, 2020). As detailed below, the Woodbridge II court concluded that the meanings of “adverse” in these two contexts are not coextensive—while “hostility” in the adverse possession context requires a claim of exclusive ownership of the property, a party claiming a prescriptive easement is only required to “show a nonpermissive or otherwise unauthorized use of property that interfered with the owner’s property interests.” Thus, the Woodbridge II court reasoned a claimants’ acknowledgement or recognition of an owner’s title alone is insufficient to defeat “adverse use” in the prescriptive easement context.
This significant ruling is at odds with a prior division’s broad statement, while considering a prescriptive easement claim, that “[i]n general, when an adverse occupier acknowledges or recognizes the title of the owner during the occupant’s claimed prescriptive period, the occupant interrupts the prescriptive use.” See Trask v. Nozisko, 134 P.3d 544, 553 (Colo. App. 2006). Perhaps for that reason, Woodbridge II is currently pending certiorari review before the Colorado Supreme Court in a case that should provide some much-needed clarity on what constitutes “adverse use” in the context of a prescriptive easement. As we await the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, I thought it worthwhile to provide a brief analysis of the Woodbridge II court’s deep dive into the nuances of “adverse use” in this field of Colorado law.