Law School Case Brief
Hoffman v. Freeman Land & Timber, LLC - 329 Or. 554, 994 P.2d 106 (1999)
To succeed in an adverse possession claim under Oregon law, a defendant must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the use of the property was actual, open, notorious, exclusive, continuous, and hostile for a 10-year period. Defendant bears a "heavy burden" to establish ownership by adverse possession.
Plaintiff was the record owner of a certain property; however, defendants and their predecessors-in-interest had claimed and actually possessed the property for a period of 10 years or more. In 1994, plaintiff record owner listed the subject lot for sale. Defendant possessors confronted plaintiff’s realtor and announced their adverse possession claim. Accordingly, plaintiff brought the present action to quiet title in the property and to eject defendants. Defendants, on the other hand, asserted title by adverse possession and sought to eject plaintiff. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, holding that the defendants, who had the burden to establish adverse possession, failed to meet all the elements of their adverse possession claim. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and held that the defendants had demonstrated actual, open, notorious, and exclusive possession of the subject lot for a period of 10 years. Plaintiff sought further review by the Oregon Supreme Court.
Were the defendants able to sufficiently establish their adverse possession over the lot in question?
The Court held that there was no clear and convincing evidence that defendants or their predecessors-in-interest intended to claim the land against the true owner. According to the Court, the defendants or their predecessors-in-interest only used the property for convenience, and thus, they were not able to establish that claim over the land was hostile. In conclusion, the Court held that the defendants did not meet their burden of proving each of the elements of their adverse possession claim.
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