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In order to acquire title by adverse possession, the claimant must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that for the statutory period his use of the land was continuous, open and notorious, exclusive and hostile to the true owner. Continuity, notoriety, and exclusivity of use, are not susceptible to fixed standards, but rather depend on the character of the land in question.
Appellee, Angela Green, took possession of part of her family's land in 1982 as an oral gift to appellee from her grandparents. For the following decade, appellee lived on the land during the summer. In 1994 her grandparents sold their interest in the land to appellant Allen Vezey. Appellee brought suit claiming that she had gained title by adverse possession. The superior court upheld her claim. Appellant challenged the finding of adverse possession as well as the superior court’s determination of what land appellee actually possessed.
Did appellee demonstrate adverse possession of the property?
Yes, except with respect to the property’s west portion.
The appellate court noted that appellee may claim title to the property by adverse possession only if she has shown by clear and convincing evidence that she possessed the property for ten consecutive years. In order to acquire title by adverse possession, the claimant must prove, by clear and convincing evidence that for the statutory period his use of the land was continuous, open and notorious, exclusive and hostile to the true owner. In this case, the court agreed with the trial court's conclusion that appellee continuously used the property. Furthermore, since appellee met all the necessary elements to prove adverse possession without a gift, she would necessarily also meet the lower threshold for adverse possession based on a gift. According to the court, when a record owner gave property as a gift, the gift would strengthen the possessor’s claims to the property by establishing that the possessor claimed full ownership, and that the record owner knew of her claim. However, the appellate court found the trial court erred in its conclusion of adverse possession as to the portion of the property extending 300 feet to the west of the house, because the trial court did not specify what evidence of actual use supported its conclusion.