Monday, November 25, 2013

Somerville v. Jacobs case brief

Somerville v. Jacobs case brief summary
170 S.E.2d 805 (W. Va. 1969)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant property owners appealed from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Wood County (West Virginia) in the action brought by plaintiff neighbors for equitable relief from their mistaken improvement of the property owners' land. The property owners were ordered to elect either to retain the property and incur liability for the value of the improvements or to sell the lot to the neighbors. Intervenor lender was a defendant in the case.

CASE FACTS
The neighbors brought the action for equitable relief against the property owners, on whose land the neighbors mistakenly constructed a bottling plant. The property owners asserted entitlement to the bottling plant under the doctrine of annexation and refused to pay the neighbors the value of the improvements.

DISCUSSION

  • On review of the circuit court decision in favor of the neighbors, the court held that the neighbors erected the building on the land due to a factual mistake by the surveyor, reasonably believing it was their property. 
  • The court further found that the property owners did not discover the error until the building was completed and were not guilty of fraud or inequitable conduct constituting an estoppel. 
  • In order to prevent unjust enrichment benefitting the property owners, the court affirmed the judgment directing the property owners to either sell the land to the neighbors for the fair market value of the unimproved lot, or compensate the neighbors in the amount of the fair market value of the bottling plant.

CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the judgment directing the property owners to elect to either sell the improved lot to the neighbors at fair value, minus the value of the improvements, or to incur liability to the neighbors in the amount of the improvements.

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