Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom – 799 P.2d 304 (Alaska 1990)

Case Name: Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom
Plaintiff: Nome 2000
Defendant: Charles and Peggy Fagerstrom
Citation: 799 P.2d 304 (Alaska 1990)

Issue: Whether the defendants acquired the southern portion of the land in dispute when their only activities included the use of the pre-existing trails and picking up litter.

Key Facts: 7 ½ acres in dispute. Record title which includes the disputed parcel is held by Nome 2000. In 1978 the defendants built a cabin on the north end of the disputed parcel. The plaintiff admits that from the time the cabin was place until it filed this suit (1987), the defendants adversely possessed the north end of the disputed parcel.

Procedural History: Nome 2000 filed suit to eject defendants. The defendant’s counterclaimed that through their use of the parcel they had acquired title by adverse possession.

Holding: The defendant did not acquire the property through adverse possession on the southern portion of the land because absent color of title, only property actually possessed may be acquired by adverse possession.

Judgment: The plaintiffs did not adversely possess the southern portion of the land in dispute. The case was remanded to the trial court in order to determine the extent of the defendant’s acquisition (northern portion).

Alaska adverse possession:
1. Ten year period
2.  Continuous
3. Open and notorious
4. Exclusive and hostile to the true owner

Community Feed Store v. Northeastern Culvert Corp.

Case Name: Community Feed Store, Inc. v. Northeastern Culvert Corp.

Key Facts: Community Feed Store operates a small wholesale and retail animal feed business. Defendant, Northeastern Culvert Corp. is a neighboring business.

At issue is a parcel of land to the north of the plaintiff’s principal building (approximately 60 x 90 feet), covered with gravel. 28 feet of this is owned by the plaintiff, the rest is owned by the defendant. The plaintiff’s suppliers and customers used this area for loading and unloading.

Defendant purchased its land in 1956 but was not until 1984, after a new survey, that it was established that the bulk of the gravel area actually belonged to the defendant. The defendant then erected a barrier to prevent cars and trucks to use this area for loading and unloading. Plaintiff filed for declaration of a prescriptive easement.
The trial court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim of a prescriptive easement failed for two reasons:
1. Plaintiff failed to prove with sufficient particularity the width and length of the easement
2. Any use of the area in question by the plaintiff or its customers was made with the permission of the fee owner. (through public use)

Procedural History: The trial court rejected the claim and entered judgment for the defendant on its counterclaim for ejectment. Plaintiff appealed. Appellate Court found that the trial court erred in making two findings of fact.

Plaintiff met its burden by establishing the general outlines of the easement with reasonable certainty. The plaintiff did not need to establish the minute details of the interest. The plaintiff established that adverse use began no later than 1929 and lasted until at least 1956. There was no showing that the defendant had opened his land to public use.

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.

Wana the Bear v. Community Construction, Inc. – 180 Cal. Rptr. 423

Case Name: Wana the Bear v. Community Construction, Inc.
Plaintiff: Wana the Bear
Defendant: Community Construction, Inc.
Citation: 180 Cal. Rptr. 423

Issue: Whether the burial ground, which was excavated by the defendant, achieved a protectable status as a public cemetery under the 1872 cemetery law by virtue as its prior stats as a public graveyard.

Key Facts: The defendant excavated a property to develop a residential community. The property had been used by the Miwok Indians between 1850 and 1870 before they were driven out. The property was known to be a burial ground and has been the subject of numerous archeological studies. The plaintiff brought an action to stop the defendant from excavating after uncovering many of the bodies.
A 1854 act held that a place where six bodies were buried constituted a “public graveyard.” In 1872, a new act added a prescriptive clause that required the land be “used as a public cemetery continuously, without interruption, as a burial ground for five years.” It further declared that “no part of the code was retroactive unless expressly declared.” The Miwoks were no longer using the burial ground in 1873, therefore it was not made a burial ground under this new code.

Holding: The burial ground did not achieve a protectable status as a public cemetery.

Judgment: Affirmed the lower court and did not stop further excavation.

Dred Scott v. Sanford – 60 U.S. 393

Case Name: Dred Scott v. Sanford
Plaintiff: Dred Scott
Defendant: Sanford
Citation: 60 U.S. 393; 15 L. Ed. 691; 1856

Issue: Whether the plaintiff was a citizen and could bring a claim against the defendant for assault.Key Facts: The plaintiff was a slave who was taken out of the slave state of Missouri to Illinois and Minnesota, both free states. When the plaintiff returned to Missouri he was sold to Sanford and brought suit against the defendant for assault. Scott claimed that he was a Missouri citizen and a free man and Sanford claimed that neither Illinois nor the Missouri Compromise could deprive him of his property interest in Scott.

Procedural History: The district court found that the defendant was not liable for assault. The trial court held that the plaintiff was a slave and was merely property and the defendant was able to treat his property as he wished.

Holding: The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff was not a citizen and could not bring an action in court.

Judgment: The Supreme Court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In the Matter of Baby M – 109 N.J. 396 (1988)

Case Name: In the Matter of Baby M
Citation: 109 N.J. 396; 537 A.2d 1227; 1988

Issue: Whether the plaintiff could enforce a surrogacy contract which terminated the parental rights of the defendant mother and awarded sole custody to plaintiff father.

Procedural History: Defendant surrogate mother challenged the order of the Superior Court (New Jersey) that enforced the terms of a surrogate parent contract on behalf of plaintiff father. Defendant claimed that the surrogacy contract was invalid; that the trial court improperly terminated her parental rights and awarded sole custody to plaintiff father, and improperly allowed the adoption of the child by plaintiff’s wife, all pursuant to the terms of the contract.

Key Facts: On direct certification from the trial court, the court reversed the order that terminated defendant surrogate mother’s parental rights, restored her as the mother of the child, and invalidated the surrogacy contract entered into between plaintiff father and defendant. The court ruled that the contract was invalid as a matter of law, because it violated statute and was against public policy. The court found that private placement adoption was disfavored, that the payment of money made the contract illegal and possibly criminal under N.J. Stat. Ann. 9:3-54, and that it was vested with an element of coercion. The court ruled that the agreement was totally unenforceable. The court determined that the statute required a surrender of the child to a public agency and then a termination proceeding, which could only proceed after counseling. The court held that the termination of defendant’s parental rights called for by the surrogacy contract and ordered by the trial court, failed to comply with statutory requirements. The court ruled that no one can contractually abandon one’s parental rights. The court held that because the termination was invalid, the adoption was invalid.

Holding: The court invalidated the surrogacy contract because it conflicted with the law and public policy of the state.

Judgment: The court granted custody to plaintiff father, voided both the termination of the surrogate mother’s parental rights and the adoption of the child by plaintiff’s wife, and restored defendant surrogate mother as the mother of the child. The court remanded the case on the issue of visitation only.

Charrier v. Bell – 496 So. 2d 601

Case Name: Charrier v. Bell
Plaintiff: Charrier
Defendant: Bell
Citation: 496 So. 2d 601

Issue: Whether the plaintiff was the owner of the artifacts which he excavated from burial sites on land that was owned by other nonresidents.

Key Facts: The plaintiff, an “amateur archeologist,” excavated 150 burial sites and other artifacts over the course of three years. He obtained consent of the caretaker of the plantation but did not obtained consent from the landowners. He sought to sell the artifacts he excavated but buyers would not purchase until he could prove he had title.

Procedural History: The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment against the six nonresident landowners of the Trudeau Plantation confirming that he was the owner of the artifacts. The trial court found for the defendant.

Reasoning: The intent of those burying the people was not to abandon the artifacts.

Eliff v. Texon Drilling Co. – 210 S.W.2d 558 (Tex. 1948)

Case Name: Eliff v. Texon Drilling Co.
Plaintiff: Eliff
Defendant: Texon Drilling Co.
Citation: 210 S.W.2d 558 (Tex. 1948)

Issue: Whether under the law of capture the plaintiff can recover for the damages resulting from the wrongful drainage of the gas from beneath their land.

Key Facts: The landowners owned the surface and certain royalty interest of land upon which a producing well was located, as well as the mineral estate underlying the land. While the oil companies were engaged in drilling an offset well, the offset well blew out, caught fire, and cratered. The blowout resulted in the destruction of the landowners’ well and drained large quantities of gas and distillate from under their land. The landowners filed suit.

Applicable Law: In Texas, the landowner is regarded as having absolute title in severalty to the oil and gas in place beneath the land. However, this law must be in connection with the law of capture and is subject to police regulations. Scientific research has determined that oil and gas will migrate across property lines towards any low pressure area created by production from the common pool.

This migratory character of oil and gas has given rise to the so-called rule or law of capture. That rule simply is that the owner of a tract of land acquires title to the oil or gas which he produces from wells on his land, though part of the oil or gas may have migrated from adjoining lands. He does not need consent and does not incur liability. The nonliability is based upon the theory that after the drainage the title or property interest of the former owned is gone. Each owner whose land overlies the basin has a like interest, and each must of necessity exercise his right with some regard to the rights of others. No owner should be permitted to carry on his operations in reckless or lawless irresponsibility, but must submit to such limitations as are necessary to enable each to get his own.

The court did not think the non-liability rule should apply to negligent waste and destruction of the oil.

Procedural Posture: Petitioner land owners appealed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals (Texas), which reversed the trial court’s judgment for the land owners in their action to recover damages resulting from a blowout of a gas well drilled by respondent oil companies.

Overview: The trial court entered judgment for the landowners. The appellate court reversed the judgment, and this appeal followed. The court reversed the appellate court’s judgment. The appellate court was without authority to pass upon the propriety of the measure of damages adopted by the trial court because no such assignment was presented to it. The law of capture did not absolve the oil companies from liability because the negligent waste and destruction of the landowners’ gas and distillate was neither a legitimate drainage nor a lawful or reasonable appropriation of them. Under the common law, the oil companies were legally bound to use due care to avoid the negligent waste or destruction of the minerals, and they failed to discharge this duty.

Judgment: The court reversed the judgment of the appellate court, and the case was remanded to the appellate court for further proceedings.

Popov v. Hayashi – 2002 WL 31833731 (Cal. Super. Ct. 2002)

Case Name: Popov v. Hayashi
Plaintiff: Popov
Defendant: Hayashi
Citation: 2002 WL 31833731 (Cal. Super. Ct. 2002)

Issue: Whether the defendant is liable for conversion when he picked up the home run ball that was dropped by the plaintiff.

Key Facts: Barry Bonds 73rd Homerun. The plaintiff caught the ball in the upper portion of his glove but was tackled and thrown to the ground by the crowd. The ball fell out and the defendant picked it up and put it in his pocket. The plaintiff sued for conversion.

Holding: The plaintiff and defendant had equitable claims and could not prove their case either way.

Reasoning: Although the plaintiff proved intent to possess the ball, he could not establish that he would have fully possessed the ball had he not been tackled by the crowd. If he could have established this, his pre-possessory interest would have constituted a qualified right to possession which can support a cause of action for conversion.

Judgment: The ball was sold for $450,000 and the proceeds were divided equally.

Pierson v. Post – 2 Am. Dec. 264 (N.Y. 1805)

Case Name: Pierson v. Post
Plaintiff/Appellee: Post
Defendant/Appellant: Pierson
Citation: 2 Am. Dec. 264 (N.Y. 1805)

Issue: Whether a trespass was committed when Pierson killed and carried off the fox that was being hunted by Post.

Key Facts: Post was hunting a fox with dogs and hounds and while he was hunting the fox, Pierson, who knew that Post was hunting, killed and carried off the fox.

Procedural History: The first court found for the plaintiff, Post.

Holding: A trespass was not committed although the conduct of Pierson was uncourteous towards Post, his act did not produce an injury or damage for which a legal remedy can be applied.

Reasoning: Based off Barbeyrac, the actual bodily seizure is not necessary constitute possession of wild animals; however, pursuit alone is insufficient to constitute possession.

Judgment: The second court reversed the decision.

Dissent: The dissenting opinion stated that property in animals may be acquired without bodily touch or manucaption, provided the pursuer be within reach, or have a reasonable prospect of taking, what he has thus discovered an intention of converting to his own use.