THE STATE OF
In The Court of Appeals
Ruby E. Matthews, Bobby J. Matthews and David McCoy, Respondents,
Gloria Dennis and
Alton Dennis, Appellants.
Kevin M. Barth, Special Referee
Opinion No. 4010
Submitted May 1, 2005 – Filed July 5, 2005
Gordon B. Jenkinson, of Kingstree, for Appellants.
S. Porter Stewart, II, of
Florence, for Respondents.
PER CURIAM: Gloria and Alton Dennis (“Defendants”) appeal the special referee’s determination that their property was subject to an easement in favor of adjoining property owned by Ruby E. Matthews, Bobby J. Matthews, and David McCoy (collectively referred to as “Plaintiffs”). Specifically, the special referee found Plaintiffs established their right to an easement under the theories of prescription and necessity. We affirm.
Gloria Dennis and Ruby Matthews are first cousins. In 1946, Otis McKnight, who was Gloria’s father and Ruby’s uncle, built a home place on a tract of land that he owned in
In 1951, Otis received from his brother a thirty-foot-wide strip of land, running approximately one-quarter of a mile between their respective properties. According to the deed of conveyance, the property, commonly known as “
In 1963, Otis conveyed a one-acre portion of his land to Defendants, who have lived on this property since 1964. In 1969, Otis transferred his remaining property to Bobby Matthews, Sr., while reserving a life estate for himself and his wife in the one acre of land where their home was located. Upon Otis’s death in 1976, his remaining property transferred to his widow and children. By deed dated April 23, 1986, Otis’s heirs transferred their interest in
In 1970, Bobby Matthews, Sr., transferred a portion of the property that he received from McKnight to other individuals. Two roads, Vansel and Farmer Roads, border the property. The testimony differed in regards to whether the roads were in existence at the time of the 1970 transfer. In 1984, Bobby Matthews, Sr., transferred the remainder of his property to Ruby. In 1998, Ruby transferred a one-acre parcel to her nephew, David McCoy. In 2002, she transferred her remaining property to her son, Bobby J. Matthews, while reserving a life estate for herself.
Plaintiffs’ property is presently bounded by land owned by the McAllister family. A roadbed known as
The Matthews have rented the McAllister property for farming. With permission from the McAllisters, they have periodically used
A dispute over the use of
The case was transferred to a special referee, who found (1) Plaintiffs had both a prescriptive easement and an easement by necessity to use
1. Citing the
Creation of a prescriptive easement requires the following: “(1) There must be [a] continued and uninterrupted use or enjoyment of the right for a period of 20 years. (2) The identity of the thing enjoyed must be proven. (3) The use must have been adverse or under a claim of right.” “Periods of prescriptive use may be tacked together to make up the prescriptive period if there is a transfer between the prescriptive users of either the inchoate servitude or the estate benefited by the inchoate servitude.”
In the present case, Plaintiffs have used
2. We disagree with Defendants’ argument that Plaintiffs’ claim of right was insufficient because it was based on a mistaken belief of ownership.
A party claiming a prescriptive easement under a claim of right must “demonstrate a substantial belief that he had the right to use the parcel or road based upon the totality of circumstances surrounding his use.”
We hold the record supports the special referee’s finding that “Plaintiffs have established that theirs has always been a belief that they have had a right to use of the subject roadway for ingress and egress, and had openly done so for well in excess of twenty years.” Ruby testified that members of her family had always used
3. Finally, Defendants argue Plaintiffs’ use of the road should be deemed permissive because of the family relationship between the parties. We disagree.
Lynch v. Lynch, which Defendants cite in support of their position, is distinguishable from the present case. Lynch concerned a claim of adverse possession and not a claim for a prescriptive easement. Moreover, that decision addresses only immediate family relationships, such as between siblings or parent and child, rather than extended kinship, such as in the present case. In any event, based on case law from both
GOOLSBY, HUFF, and STILWELL, JJ., concur.
 Because oral argument would not aid the court in resolving the issues on appeal, we decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.
 We address only those arguments challenging the special referee’s findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding an easement by prescription. Because we affirm the determination that Plaintiffs had established their right to an easement under this theory, we make no ruling on their entitlement to an easement by necessity. See Futch v. McAllister Towing of Georgetown, Inc., 335 S.C. 598, 613, 518 S.E.2d 591, 598 (1999) (ruling an appellate court need not review remaining issues when its determination of a prior issue is dispositive of the appeal); Dwyer v. Tom Jenkins Realty, 289 S.C. 118, 120, 344 S.E.2d 886, 888 (Ct. App. 1986) (“[w]here a decision is based on two grounds, either of which, independent of the other, is sufficient to support it, it will not be reversed on appeal because one of those grounds is erroneous”) (quoting 5 Am. Jur. 2d Appeal and Error § 727, at 171 (1962)).
 92 A. 521 (
 Although the special referee ruled the use was uninterrupted since at least 1969, he never specifically addressed either the issue of whether the 1986 conveyance to Defendants disrupted Plaintiffs’ use of the road or whether the prescriptive period should have been calculated from the time Defendants acquired
 Restatement (Third) of Property: Servitudes § 2.17 (2000).
 The final hearing in this case was held in August 2003.
 See Slear v. Hanna, 329 S.C. 407, 410, 496 S.E.2d 633, 635 (1998) (stating the determination of the existence of an easement is a question of fact in a law action); Jowers v. Hornsby, 292 S.C. 549, 551, 357 S.E.2d 710, 711 (1987) (“The decision of the trier of fact as to whether or not an easement exists will be reviewed by the Court as an action at law.”).
 See James W. Ely, Jr. & Jon W. Bruce, The Law of Easements and Licenses in Land § 5:21 (Thomson/West 2005) (“Transferees of land take subject to ripening prescriptive claims.”).
 Hartley v. John Wesley United Methodist Church, 355 S.C. 145, 151, 584 S.E.2d 386, 389 (Ct. App. 2003) (emphasis in original); see also 25 Am. Jur. 2d Easements and Licenses, § 57, at 552 (2004) (stating “an intent to claim adversely may be inferred from the acts and conduct of the dominant users” and defining “claim of right” as “without recognition of the rights of the owner of the servient estate”).
 220 S.C. 20, 66 S.E.2d 457 (1951).
 In their brief, Defendants cite Ruby’s testimony in which she admitted, “I might not have no legal document, but when the farm was sold to us, we thought we had legal documents.” This statement, however, was in response to the following question: “But you have no legal documents that say you have the right to use
 236 S.C. 612, 115 S.E.2d 301 (1960).
 See id. at 620, 115 S.E.2d at 305 (stating that “where one seeks to acquire title by adverse possession against his brothers and sisters, such a claim should not be sustained ‘except upon a clear preponderance of the evidence’”) (quoting Whitaker v. Jeffcoat, 128 S.C. 404, 405, 122 S.E. 495, 495-96 (1924)); Nordin v. Kuno, 287 N.W.2d 923, 927 (Minn. 1980) (holding the fact that landowners and claimants of prescriptive easement were first cousins once removed was insufficient to rebut the presumption of hostile use); Cope v. Cope, 493 P.2d 336, 338-39 (1972) (reversing the finding of a prescriptive easement and noting, in addition to the familial relationship between the owners of the estates involved, the “continuous and cordial relationship” they maintained for “a considerable period of time” and the presence of gates on the servient estate); Martin v. Proctor, 313 S.E.2d 659, 662 (Va. 1984) (noting that “use by a child of land owned by its parent is regarded as permissive” absent clear notice of the child’s intention to assert an adverse claim).