Law School Case Brief
Quatannens v. Tyrrell - 268 Va. 360, 601 S.E.2d 616 (2004)
The elements of an adversary possession consist of an exclusive, actual, continued possession, under a colourable claim of title. Possession must be exclusive and viewed it as a necessity that when the rightful owner is in actual possession, that he should be disseised or ousted, and continually thereafter kept out by the hostile claimant. When the rightful owner is not in actual possession and the land appears vacant, still it is indispensable that possession should be not the less exclusive in its commencement and continuance. Though the adverse claimant cannot in such case turn out, he must shut out the rightful owner.
The property disputed contained a small portion of a room of the Quatannens' house, part of a brick walkway, part of a paved parking area, and one side of a brick arch over the walkway at the front of the Quatannens' house, all of which have existed since at least 1976. The Quatannens purchased their property in October 1995. Their neighbor Tyrrells asserted their over the disputed strip of land. Plaintiffs Quatannens filed a bill of complaint for injunctive relief and to quiet title in the Circuit Court. Two previous owners of the lot of the Quantannens testified that they presumed that the strip belonged to them and carried out such activities as gardening, storage, handball, and walking on the disputed land. The trial court found that the Quatannens had not established that their possession was hostile, as the possession had been by mistake for the majority of the period. On appeal, the Quantannens contended that the trial court erred in denying their claim of adverse possession.
Did the plaintiffs proved the hostile intent element on their adverse possession of the disputed land?
The Court held that the Quantannens provided sufficient proof to show their hostile intent in satisfaction of their adverse possession claim. The Quatannens have provided clear and convincing proof that they possessed "the positive and definite intention to claim as their own the land up to a particular and definite line on the ground. They provided evidence that previous owners of 219 S. Alfred Street had believed that the disputed land belonged to the owners of 217 S. Alfred Street. The Quatannens and two previous owners of 217 S. Alfred Street testified that they believed that their property included the disputed land. They proceeded to use the land in a manner consistent with ownership. Neither the Tyrrells nor any predecessor in title ever made any claims to the land before October 2001, despite the Quatannens' actual, open, and exclusive us of the land. Moreover, the Court added that the construction of a room of the house, a brick archway, and a walkway could not be more obvious. Enclosure and improvement of these types were acts that are clearly open, notorious, and hostile. The Tyrrells and their predecessors had adequate notice of the Quatannens' possession and the trial court erred in finding that the Tyrrells were entitled to "actual" notice in some written or oral form. The Court reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case for entry of judgment.
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