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Law School Case Brief

Rorebeck v. Criste - 398 P.2d 678 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1965)

Rule:

In order for one to acquire title purely by adverse possession, such possession must be actual, open and notorious, hostile, under a claim of right, continuous for the statutory period, and exclusive. It is generally conceded that all of these elements must coincide before one may acquire title by adverse possession.

Facts:

A property was divided into two parcels of land and sold to two different owners. A fence on the south parcel of land did not represent the actual dividing line between the north and south parcels. The owner of the north parcel, however, occupied the land up to the fence. After the fence was torn down, the owner of the north parcel brought an action against the owners of the south parcel for title to the land. The trial court found in favor of the owner of the north parcel holding that he had acquired title to part of the south parcel by adverse possession. The owners of the south parcel of land appealed the judgment.

Issue:

Did the owners of the north parcel of land acquire title to the south parcel by adverse possession?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment that the owner of the north parcel of land had acquired title to part of the south parcel by adverse possession. The Court held that the element of open and notorious actual occupancy was satisfied because the owner of the north parcel and her predecessor irrigated the disputed area, used it for grazing cattle, placed a driveway over the area, and planted cacti on it. Although the owner of the north parcel and her predecessor had initially claimed the land under a mistake of fact and had no knowledge that they were encroaching upon the property of another, their possession was nonetheless under a claim of right. The privity of estate between the owner of the north parcel and her predecessor satisfied the requirement of peaceable and adverse possession.

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