(CN) – A hotel won a reversal in the Virgin Islands Supreme Court on a claim that it improperly blocked a public road. Bluebeard’s Castle Hotel and the home of Lawrence and Maria Hodge are both accessed by Fredericksberg Gade Street. The hotel blocked off one end of the street in 1994 and the other end in 1997, launching an 11-year dispute over access to the street.
The Virgin Islands government jumped into the fray in 2002, seeking removal of the gates and a declaration that the street was a public thoroughfare. Hodges and the government won the case, with the Hodges receiving $116,800.
On appeal, Justice Finch agreed with the Hodges that they filed their complaint within the two-year statute of limitations.
However, Finch ruled that the trial court based its determination that the road is public on the findings that the road is generally accepted as being a public road, and it has been public since the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States.
That is not sufficient, the justices ruled.
“The trial court did not explicitly rely on any of the traditional ways in which a public road may be created,” Finch wrote. “We have found no authority for the trial court’s conclusion that the disputed road is public because of its widespread acceptance as such.”
Finch also did not find in the record the qualification of Hodges’ expert witness, Robert Mirnan. He had testified that the road had been public since the islands became a U.S. territory.
Finch remanded for further proceedings.