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Law School Case Brief

Howard v. Kunto - 3 Wash. App. 393, 477 P.2d 210 (1970)

Rule:

Adverse possession requires actual possession which is uninterrupted, open and notorious, hostile and exclusive, and under a claim of right made in good faith for the statutory period. The possession and dominion necessary under this rule need only be that of owner in general, in holding, managing, and caring for property of like nature and condition.

Facts:

This quiet title action arose from errors in several deeds for waterfront properties on a canal, the use of which were mainly seasonal. Defendants' house, which was several decades old, stood on one lot, but the deed described the adjacent lot. The same error existed for several properties affecting adjacent lots. Plaintiffs discovered the error and attempted to correct it while executing a conveyance for their lot. Plaintiffs filed an action to quiet title after defendants had occupied the disputed property for less than a year. The lower court found defendants unable to establish a claim for adverse possession because they failed to prove continuity of possession to permit tacking of defendants' possession to their predecessors'. The defendants appealed.

Issue:

Were the defendants able to establish adverse possession?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court reversed quieting of title in plaintiffs' favor and entered a decree which quieted title in defendants' favor because defendants were able to establish continuity of possession for purposes of a claim to title based on adverse possession. The court concluded that a ten-year summer occupancy did not destroy continuity of possession for purposes of adverse possession because the land was regularly used during the time it was capable of use and defendants made continued improvements on the land. As a result, the court found tacking was permitted. The court determined the privity requirement for tacking was satisfied because defendants' claim of right as the last of successive purchasers who received title under the mistaken belief they acquired a contiguous track was sufficiently above that of a trespasser.

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