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Law School Case Brief

Humphrey v. Futter - 169 Cal. App. 3d 333, 215 Cal. Rptr. 178 (1985)

Rule:

The elements required to establish title by agreed boundary are: (1) uncertainty as to the true boundary line; (2) an express or implied agreement between adjoining owners to accept a line as the boundary; and (3) acceptance and acquiescence in the line for a period equal to the statute of limitations or until action is taken in reliance on the agreement which would result in substantial loss if the boundary were altered. 

Facts:

Plaintiff landowners filed a lawsuit to compel defendant adjoining landowners to remove allegedly encroaching structures. Defendant adjoining landowners cross-complained to quiet title to the disputed area. At trial, a surveyor provided a legal description of a boundary line drawn through the centers of two oak trees. The trial court concluded that this constituted an agreed boundary and that defendants' rental house was therefore not an encroachment. The trial court's decision was to quiet title to the disputed area in favor of defendants. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the evidence at trial was insufficient to establish each of the elements of an agreed boundary. Even if there was an agreed boundary, they added, it could not have been where the trial court found it to be. 

Issue:

Was the judgment of the trial court proper?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court held that the evidence showed that defendants, after the boundary agreement, constructed the rental house in what was now the disputed area. Assuming there was some form of occupancy requirement, it was satisfied here by construction and use of the rental house. Thus, the doctrine of agreed boundary had been properly applied. The court further held that the oral agreement could also be enforced under estoppel principles, that the fact the boundary line established under the agreement was subsequently found to be incorrect was immaterial, that the agreed-upon boundary could be established with the required reasonable certainty, and that any objection of plaintiffs to the boundary line established by the trial court should have been raised in the trial court. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

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