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Law School Case Brief

Cahill v. Morrow - 11 A.3d 82 (R.I. 2011)

Rule:

Requiring adverse possession under a claim of right is the same as requiring hostility, in that both terms simply indicate that the claimant is holding the property with an intent that is adverse to the interests of the true owner. Thus, a claim of right may be proven through evidence of open, visible acts or declarations, accompanied by use of the property in an objectively observable manner that is inconsistent with the rights of the record owner.

Facts:

Plaintiff neighbor sued defendant landowner for a declaration under R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-7-1 that the neighbor owned, by adverse possession, a certain parcel titled in the landowner. The trial court ruled in favor of the neighbor, and the landowner appealed, alleging that trial court did not properly consider the neighbor's offers to buy the parcel.

Issue:

Does the offer to purchase the property affect the plaintiff’s adverse possession claim?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The supreme court held the trial court wrongly held the offers did not affect the neighbor's claim because they outwardly declared to the parcel's owner the viability of his title and fully admitted her subservient interest to that title, interrupting her claim's accrual, as (1) they did not merely show she knew she was not the record owner, and (2) they were not made to make peace in an ongoing dispute, destroying the elements of hostility and claim of right, so any incidents of ownership by the neighbor after her first offer interrupted her claim could not be considered.

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