Law School Case Brief
United States ex rel Zuni Tribe v. Platt - 730 F. Supp. 318 (D. Ariz. 1990)
"Adverse possession" means an actual and visible appropriation of the land, commenced and continued under a claim of right inconsistent with and hostile to the claim of another.
Plaintiff government brought an action on behalf of plaintiff Native American tribe, who had intervened, and claimed a prescriptive easement by adverse possession across defendant landowner's land. The landowner declared his intent to prevent the tribe from crossing his land and the government and tribe claimed a prescriptive easement. The court granted the easement and held that the tribe established the "actual" and "continuous" possession elements of their claim for adverse possession and that the "actual" possession had been continuous for over the ten-year period required for a claim of a prescriptive right.
Can the plaintiff Indian tribe claim prescriptive easement over the property of defendant Platt?
Following the Arizona statutes that generally held rule that in order for one to acquire right to property purely by adverse possession, such possession must be actual, open and notorious, hostile, under a claim of right, continuous for the statutory period of 10 years, and exclusive, the federal district court held that it was clear from the record that the plaintiff tribe met the standards of adverse possession, and the applicable case law for purposes of the limited use sought. Thus, the Native Americans were entitled to a prescriptive easement over the land of the defendant for the purposes of their quadrennial pilgrimage.
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