Law School Case Brief
Houston v. United States Gypsum Co. - 652 F.2d 467 (5th Cir. 1981)
Payment of taxes is but one incident of property ownership, and whether an adverse possessor has paid property taxes on the land in controversy is not dispositive of his claim.
Plaintiffs, George T. Houston, III, and his sister Ruth Houston Jarvis Baker, were the record owners of an island, including all accretions or additions to it. Defendant United States Gypsum Company (Gypsum) claimed title to undeveloped accretion property on the southern tip of the Houstons’ island by virtue of its deed for another island. The Houstons brought an action against Gypsum to quiet title and for the value of timber that Gypsum cut. The district court awarded title to the Houstons, along with damages for the timber.
Did the Houstons acquire title to their island's accretions by adverse possession?
The court found that the Houstons had consistently acted as if the entire island belonged to them, for longer than the ten-year statute for adverse possession in Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-13 (1972). The Houstons took possession of the disputed property under color of title and increased the property tax acreage assessments in an attempt to include the accretions to the island. Further, Gypsum had actual notice of plaintiffs' adverse claim as long ago as 1957, when the Houstons attempted to sell timber from the disputed property to Gypsum.
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