One must enter upon the land claiming in good faith the right to do so. To enter upon the land without any honest claim of right to do so is but a trespass and can never ripen into prescriptive title.
Appellee corporation is the titleholder of a parcel of land which appellant claims to own by adverse possession. A jury found against appellee's adverse possession claim and in favor of appellant's counterclaims for damages for slander of title and trespass and for expenses of litigation. The trial court charged the jury that the putative landowner had to prove four requirements, one of which was that possession had to be accompanied by a good faith claim of right. The putative landowner argued that hostile possession and claim of right were for all practical purposes legal equivalents, and that a claim of right was to be presumed from the assertion of dominion. On appeal, the court affirmed the superior court's judgment.
Was the putative landowner a holder in good faith?
On review the court held that one had to enter upon the land claiming in good faith the right to do so and to enter upon the land without any honest claim of the right to do so was but a trespass and could never have ripened into prescriptive title. The court held that it was possible to maintain hostile possession of land in good faith but noted that there was evidence that the putative landowner knew the parcel of land was owned by another yet they simply took possession when their offer to purchase was declined. The court also rejected the putative landowner's claim that the attorney was barred from testifying under Ga. Code Ann. § 24-9-25, holding that testimony of attorney fees was not a matter that the attorney obtained knowledge of from the client.