Mount Saint Mary’s University is suing the J. Paul Getty Trust in a dispute regarding an easement the school says was established in the late 1920s, which it sought to use to provide access for construction vehicles in the building of a new campus facility.
The complaint by the Catholic, liberal arts university seeks an injunction permitting MSMU to use the easement without further interference, plus unspecified damages. Representatives for the Getty Trust and Getty Center, a neighbor to MSMU, did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Los Angeles Superior Court suit brought Friday.
“MSMU has taken great efforts throughout its 90-year history in Brentwood to be a good neighbor to all property owners in the vicinity of its campus,” the suit states.
The university — which has a mostly female student body — recently obtained approval from the city of Los Angeles to build a state-of-the-art wellness pavilion that will provide its students with a gym, physical therapy lab, dance and cycling studios, plus multiple other amenities dedicated to health and well-being, according to the suit.
In 2017, MSMU informed the Getty Trust, which owns the adjacent property, that it was considering exercising its rights in an express easement through Getty’s property for access related to construction of the pavilion, the suit states. The trust was initially receptive, but the next year became cool to the idea, according to the suit.
“Even though MSMU’s founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, obtained rights in the easement nearly 100 years ago by way of a grant deed, Getty responded by claiming that MSMU somehow has no right to use its easement,” the suit states.
Getty, which operates a museum with a multi-billion dollar endowment, raised “baseless procedural defenses to MSMU’s irrefutable easement rights,” including that the easement was either abandoned, eliminated due to changes over time or extinguished by Getty through adverse possession, the suit states.
Although Getty apparently bases its adverse possession claim on a gate the trust built at the base of one of the roads at issue, in reality the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet provided Getty with consent to install the gate “to be an accommodating neighbor” and to help Getty meet the terms of a conditional use permit, according to the suit.
When MSMU advised Getty management that its procedural arguments are groundless, the trust “threatened to inhibit construction of MSMU’s wellness pavilion and challenged MSMU’s rights to its express easement,” according to the suit, which further alleges that Getty also helped spread misinformation that the school’s limited use of the easement would result in the road being opened to traffic from the San Diego (405) Freeway.
Even after MSMU decided not to use the easement in connection with the pavilion construction, Getty continued to deny MSMU’s right to it, the suit states.
“MSMU cannot question the wisdom of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in securing the easement, which is an important property right and could serve critical emergency purposes,” the suit states.