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Mullis v. Winchester - 237 S.C. 487, 118 S.E.2d 61 (1961)

Rule:

In order to constitute adverse possession, which results in obtaining title to property, the possession must be actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous and exclusive for the whole statutory period. It may be stated as a general rule that claimant’s possession must be such as to indicate his exclusive ownership of the property. Not only must his possession be without subserviency to, or recognition of, the title of the true owner, but it must be hostile thereto and to the whole world.

Facts:

A certain property lot was originally owned by E.C. Winchester. Winchester died intestate; thereafter, the ownership of the lot passed on to his heirs. However, due to non-payment of taxes, the sheriff levied upon and sold the tract of land to one John S. Chonis. Chonis thereafter conveyed the property to respondent Carl W. Mullis by the virtue of a deed of sale. Mullis has been in actual, open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject lot. Subsequently, Mullis filed an action to quiet title to the property, asserting that he acquired title to the subject lot by adverse possession. The court of common pleas rendered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Mullis. The heirs of Winchester challenged the court’s decision.

Issue:

Did Mullis obtain title to the property because of his open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject lot for a period of ten years or more?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court noted that in order to constitute adverse possession, which would result in obtaining title to property, the possession must be actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous and exclusive for the whole statutory period. According to the Court, the claimant's possession must be such as to indicate his exclusive ownership of the property. Not only must his possession be without subserviency to, or recognition of, the title of the true owner, but it must be hostile thereto and to the whole world. In the case at bar, the Court determined that the evidence presented by Mullis sufficiently established his adverse possession for the whole statutory period, such that there was no question that Mullis entered into possession of the land with the intention to dispossess the owners thereof, and did so.

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