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Stasher v. Perry

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 14, 2017

CHARLES E. STASHER AND SARAH EULA STASHER APPELLANTS
v.
PATRICIA ANN PERRY, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF RANDY ARCHIE SPRINGER, DECEASED APPELLEE

          Date of Judgment: 07/15/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MADISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. CYNTHIA L. BREWER TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: SANDRA STASHER.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JAMES M. CREWS III.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND CARLTON, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. The Chancery Court of Madison County granted Randy Archie Springer's complaint for adverse possession and to confirm and quiet title and denied Charles E. Stasher and Sarah Eula Stasher's counterclaim to remove cloud on title and to quiet and confirm title by adverse possession.[1] The Stashers now appeal. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On April 28, 1983, Fulton Cannon executed a warranty deed to Charles and Sarah Stasher, which conveyed certain real property located in Madison County, Mississippi. The Stashers used proceeds from a Farmers Home Administration loan to purchase the property. Because the Stashers intended to run cattle on the property, they were required to fence in the property as a condition of the loan. The Stashers did not obtain a boundary survey. Instead, the Stashers met with Cannon, who pointed out the line where the Stashers should place the fence. The fence was built shortly after the Stashers purchased the property.

         ¶3. From 1983 to 1992, Cannon and the Stashers were neighbors. In 1992, following the death of Cannon, Cannon's wife, along with others, conveyed their interest in the Cannon property to John Wilson. Following Wilson's death, the property was devised to Ben Wilson, Stephen Wilson, and Gregory Wilson by Last Will and Testament dated December 10, 1992.

         ¶4. On February 22, 2005, Stephen Wilson executed a warranty deed, which conveyed to Randy Archie Springer an undivided 83.34% interest in the property. On October 26, 2006, Rosa Lee Milton executed a warranty deed, which conveyed to Springer the remaining 16.66% undivided interest in the property.

         ¶5. The Springer property adjoins and is immediately east of the Stasher property. The fence built by the Stashers in 1983 was actually constructed east of and parallel to the true west line of the Stasher property. As a result, the fence is located on property formerly owned by Cannon but, through the previously described conveyances, is now owned by Springer.

         ¶6. The land in dispute is located on the west side of the Springer property, immediately east of the east line of the Stasher property. This disputed property is approximately 3, 332 feet long and 30 feet wide, and comprises approximately 2.29 acres. It is undisputed that Springer is the legal owner of and has record title to the disputed property.

         ¶7. On August 1, 2007, Springer filed a Complaint for Adverse Possession and to Confirm and Quiet Title. On September 4, 2007, the Stashers filed an Answer and Counterclaim to Remove Cloud on Title and to Quiet and Confirm Title by Adverse Possession. On March 17, 2015, a bench trial was held before the Chancery Court of Madison County, during which all parties appeared and were represented by counsel.

         ¶8. On July 15, 2015, the chancery court entered its opinion and final judgment wherein it granted Springer's complaint, denied the Stashers' counterclaim, found Springer to be the exclusive owner of the disputed property, and confirmed and quieted title in Springer. The Stashers filed a motion for reconsideration, amendment of findings of fact and conclusions of law, and entry of a new final judgment, which the chancery court denied.

         ¶9. The Stashers now appeal and argue: (1) the chancery court erred in finding Cannon gave the Stashers permission to construct a fence and, as a result, the Stashers cannot claim adverse possession for the time period that Cannon owned the property, (2) the chancery court erred in finding that, by 2003, the fence was no longer in good repair, sufficient to put John Wilson and his predecessor in title, Stephen Wilson, on notice of the Stashers' claim of ownership, and (3) the chancery court erred in finding Springer held himself out as the owner of the property in such a way that Springer's and his predecessors' claims were sufficient to establish open, notorious, visible, exclusive, continuous, and uninterrupted possession of the land for the statutory ten-year period.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶10. "[O]ur appellate review of the chancellor's decision is limited." Apperson v. White, 950 So.2d 1113, 1116 (¶4) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). We "will not disturb the findings of a chancellor when supported by substantial evidence unless the chancellor abused his discretion, was manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or an erroneous legal standard was applied." Id.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶11. Adverse possession requires the claimant to prove that his possession or occupancy was: (1) under claim of ownership, (2) actual and hostile, (3) open, notorious, and visible, (4) continuous and uninterrupted for a period of ten years, (5) exclusive, and (6) peaceful. Rice v. Pritchard, 611 So.2d 869, 871 (Miss. 1992). To succeed on a claim of adverse possession, the claimant must prove each of the elements by clear and convincing evidence. Id.

         I.Whether the chancery court erred in finding Cannon gave the Stashers permission to construct the fence and, as a result, the Stashers cannot claim adverse possession for ...


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