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To establish title by adverse possession, a claimant must oust an owner of possession and keep such owner out without interruption for fifteen years by an open, visible and exclusive possession under a claim of right with the intent to use the property as his own and without the consent of the owner. A finding of adverse possession is to be made out by clear and positive proof. The burden of proof is on the party claiming adverse possession.
The plaintiff brought an action in 2007 against her sister, the defendant, to quiet title to an undeveloped lot that the parties and certain other family members had inherited. In 1971, the parties' mother inherited a one-third interest in the lot, and the plaintiff, the defendant and their two siblings each inherited a one-sixth interest. In 1980, the parties' mother, incorrectly believing that she was the sole owner of the lot, conveyed it to the plaintiff. In 1987, the plaintiff became aware that her mother had only a one-third interest in the lot when she conveyed it and that the defendant had a one-sixth interest. The plaintiff then asked the defendant to convey her one-sixth interest to the plaintiff, but the defendant refused. Thereafter, the other siblings conveyed their interests to the plaintiff, leaving her with a five-sixths interest and the defendant with a one-sixth interest. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that she had acquired full ownership of the lot through adverse possession, stating that she had claimed the lot as her own, continuously and for more than the fifteen year statutory period, in an open, visible, hostile, notorious, adverse and exclusive manner, from the time she acquired her mother's interest in 1980 until the commencement of the present litigation in 2007. In support of her claim, the plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that she had planted trees along the perimeter of the lot, had paid all property taxes and otherwise had maintained the lot. The trial court rendered judgment for the plaintiff on her adverse possession claim, concluding that she had overcome the presumption that possession by a tenant in common was not adverse to another co-tenant and had proven by clear and convincing evidence all of the requisite elements of adverse possession. On appeal, the co-tenant claimed that the trial court improperly determined that the owner had overcome the presumption that possession by a tenant in common was not adverse to another co-tenant and had proven the elements of an adverse possession.
Under the circumstances, did plaintiff acquire full ownership of the lot through adverse possession?
The supreme court concluded that there was no evidence to support the trial court's finding that the owner had asserted her intent to disseize the co-tenant and maintain exclusive right and title to the lot from the time of the conveyance; the owner could not have had such an intent at that time, as she was unaware she was not the sole owner. The owner only gave notice of such an intent five to ten years earlier, which did not meet the 15-year requirement in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-575(a). Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court was reversed and the case was remanded with direction to render judgment for the co-tenant on the owner's complaint and for further proceedings on the co-tenant's counterclaim seeking sale or partition of the lot.