Law School Case Brief
Garriott v. Peters - 878 N.E.2d 431 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007)
Once a party establishes the elements of adverse possession, fee simple title to the disputed tract of land is conferred upon the possessor by operation of law, and title is extinguished in the original owner. Once a party has acquired title through adverse possession, that party does not lose title based on acts committed or circumstances existing after title is established.
Plaintiff landowners brought an action for trespass against defendant landowners, who filed a counterclaim to quiet title and for damages. The circuit court quieted title to the disputed land, which consisted mainly of undeveloped wooded area and swampland, in favor of defendants. Plaintiffs appealed.
Did the plaintiffs satisfy the elements of adverse possession for the 10-year period prescribe for quieting of title?
The Court reversed the trial court’s decision. There was substantial and uncontroverted evidence that plaintiffs had met the elements of adverse possession for the 10-year period. The existence of a fence along the edge of plaintiffs' claimed boundary was evidence of control. Even without the fencing, there was significant uncontroverted evidence of plaintiffs' use of the land, including leasing part of it and cutting timber from it. As for intent, both parties believed that they were purchasing the disputed tract, thereby providing evidence of intent to claim ownership. Plaintiffs also excluded others from using the tract, ejected hunters from it, sold timber off it, and entered into government contracts concerning it. Plaintiffs had recorded a deed with a legal description covering the tract. Thus, defendants' predecessors in title had constructive notice of plaintiffs' claim.
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