Thursday, March 17, 2016

Walling v. Przybylo case brief - New York Adverse Possession

Walling v. Przybylo case brief
New York 2006

Facts: Plaintiffs and defendants own adjoining lots 22 and 23 which are located in Queensbury NY. Dispute is over north of lot 23. Plaintiff, Wallings, bought lot 22 in 1986 and built a small shed. In 1989, defendants bought lot 23 but did not build house until 91 and did not get certificate of occupancy until 1994. In 1987, the plaintiff bulldozed and deposited fill and topsoil on defendants northern side yard which includes the disputed parcel and dug a trench, installing pipes to carry water to and under the disputed land. And before defendant’s arrival, plaintiff built underground dog wire fence to enclose their dog and maintained the area in dispute. Plus, 69 feet of pipe was installed in such a way as to be underground and then come up in a swale.

Defendants admitted they saw the lawn was in part cultivated before moving in. In 1992, plaintiffs placed a post on disputed territory with a bird house. In 2004, defendants surveyed land and found out plaintiff overreached. Plaintiff, finding out about the defendants owning the disputed land, brought an action to quiet title which was granted by lower court on summary judgment. After a motion to renew, decision was modified by denying summary judgment because of triable issues of fact whether plaintiff had actual knowledge of true owners before making improvements. Appellate court reversed because adverse possession cannot be defeated by mere knowledge that another holds legal title.

Decision: Affirmed lower courts order, summary judgment granted to plaintiffs because actual knowledge that another is title owner does not by itself defeat adverse possessor’s claim of right.

Reasoning:
To establish a claim of adverse possession: 1. Hostile and under claim of right; 2. Actual; 3. Open and notorious; 4. Exclusive; 5. Continuous for statutory period. The final element in title through adverse possession is the acquiescence of real owner in exercise of an obvious adverse or hostile ownership. It took too long for defendants to assert rights.

Court said that claim of right does exist even when adverse possessor has knowledge that the land belongs elsewhere since claim of right, by definition, is adverse to the owner and in opposition to rights of owner which is already hostile. Adverse possession needs to proved before it happens but it is a good social policy. (Court says Van Valkenburgh court had mistaken dictum which did not change the law)

Holding: Adverse possessors must prove the 5 elements in court plus a final element of the true owner acquiescing to the possession which can be hostile in intent.

Adverse Possession Statute 2008 – It says that an adverse possessor for claim of title must have a reasonable basis for the belief that the property belongs to the adverse possessor or property owner. Acquisition of title is also easy to get as long as it follows open and notorious, adverse, continuous, exclusive, and actual.

Claim of right means just a reasonable basis that the AP owns the land, in terms of belief.

Essentials of adverse possession not under written instrument: acts sufficiently open to put reasonably diligent owner on notice and protected by substantial enclosure. The statute, under 543, says that enroachments that are non structural (sheds, plantings, shrubbery, and non structural walls) are deemed permissive and non-adverse. Plus, acts of lawn moving or similar maintenance across boundary is non-adverse.

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