Brown v. Gobble – 474 S.E.2d 489 (W. Va. 1996)

Case Name: Brown v. Gobble
Appellee/Plaintiff: Gary S. Brown and Mitzi Brown
Appellants/Defendant: David L. Gobble and Sue Ann Gobble
Citation: 474 S.E.2d 489 (W. Va. 1996)

Issue: Whether the circuit court erred in not granting the defendant the tract of land through adverse possession when the defendant proved each of the required elements needed for adverse possession under the doctrine of “tacking.”

  • “Tacking” – to make up the required time period one may add up the time that previous adverse possessors claimed the property

Procedural History: The circuit court granted judgment for a strip of land to the plaintiffs saying that the defendants failed to show their ownership by way of adverse possession. The court believes that because of the stakes involved in an adverse possession case, that “clear and convincing” evidence is needed.

Facts: The defendants purchased the land in 1985 and the two foot wide tract was on their side of the fence that divided the two properties and visually appeared to be the defendant’s property. The real estate agent and deed stated that their land ran up to and included the fence. Plaintiffs purchased their property in 1989 and knew that, through a survey, they owned the two foot wide tract; however, they did nothing to show ownership until they brought the suit in 1994.

Holding: The circuit court either misunderstood or misapplied the defendant’s theory. The defendants did not claim that their actual possession of the property is sufficient to establish adverse possession but that their predecessors met all the requirements of adverse possession and under the doctrine of tacking, the predecessors’ interest was passed onto the defendants.

Rule of Law: One who seeks to assert title to a tract of land under the doctrine of adverse possession must prove each of the following elements for the required statutory period (ten years):

  • That he has held the tract adversely or hostilely*;
  • That the possession has been actual;
  • That is has been open and notorious (sometimes stated in the cases as visible and notorious);
  • That possession  has been exclusive;
  • That possession has been continuous;
  • That possession has been under claim of title or color of title

*Where one by mistake occupies land up to a line beyond his actual boundary, believing it to be the true line, will not defeat his right to claim that he holds the land adversely or hostilely.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.