Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz case brief

Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz case brief summary
106 N.E.2d 28 (1952)

One of plaintiff landowners appealed a judgment of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (New York), which affirmed a lower court decision in favor of defendant neighbors in plaintiffs' action to compel the removal of encroachment upon plaintiffs' lands, for delivery of possession, and for incidental relief.

Plaintiff landowners purchased property from the city of Yonkers, New York in 1947. Defendant neighbors, a husband and wife, owned lots adjoining plaintiffs' lot. Plaintiffs brought actions against defendants to compel the removal of encroachment upon plaintiffs' lands, for delivery of possession, and for incidental relief. The actions were consolidated and a referee found that title to the disputed lots was perfected in defendant husband by adverse possession. The appellate court affirmed.


  • On further appeal, the court reversed, concluding that there was no proof that the subject premises were protected by a substantial inclosure, nor did defendants show that the premises were cultivated or improved sufficiently to satisfy the requirements of New York's Civil Practice Act, §§ 34, 38, 39, 40. 
  • The court reasoned that the proof failed to show that cultivation incident to a garden utilized the whole premises claimed, or that the premises were improved, or that there was hostile intent where defendants' garage unintentionally encroached only a few inches over the boundary line.
  • Littering the property could not be deemed improvements.
Judgments granting title to defendant neighbors by adverse possession of plaintiff landowners' property was reversed, and defendants' counterclaim was dismissed with judgment directed in favor of one of plaintiffs because the proof failed to establish actual occupation for such a time or in such a manner as to establish title by adverse possession where defendants did not improve the property and had not intended to take title.

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