OF JUDGMENT: 08/21/2015
FROM WHICH APPEALED: COPIAH COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. EDWARD
E. PATTEN JR. TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CLARENCE MCDONALD LELAND.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: RENEE H. BERRY JOHN T. ARMSTRONG JR.
LEE, C.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.
In December 2013, Tracy Sykes Blalock and Robert Allen Sykes
brought suit against Charles O'Neal in the Copiah County
Chancery Court to quiet and confirm title in land on which
O'Neal was encroaching. O'Neal responded by claiming
ownership of the disputed land through adverse possession.
Following trial, the chancery court entered a final judgment
holding that O'Neal had failed to prove his claim of
adverse possession by clear and convincing evidence.
O'Neal timely appealed. Finding no error, we affirm.
OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On September 19, 1990, O'Neal purchased approximately
255.8 acres of land in Copiah County. Prior to the completion
of O'Neal's purchase, he had the land surveyed by
Harold King, a registered land surveyor. O'Neal then had
a deed prepared based upon King's survey, which he
properly recorded, and to which the King survey was attached.
Though this case was initiated on December 23, 2013 by
Blalock and Sykes as a complaint to quiet and confirm title,
the parties elected to proceed with O'Neal's claim
for adverse possession, as it would likely be dispositive to
the outcome of the case.
At trial, O'Neal testified that while King performed the
survey, he aided by bulldozing a road along the southern
boundary of the property. O'Neal further testified that,
out of respect for the adjacent landowners, the road was
constructed to favor the north side of the southern boundary
line surveyed by King. In addition to the dozing of the road,
O'Neal stated that at the time of the survey, King also
blazed a red, painted line, which was maintained for
"years and years." He testified that he personally
observed King place each survey pin in every corner of his
property, including point 7, which abuts the western
right-of-way of Highway 27, and is a primary area of dispute
among the parties. O'Neal asserted that he relied
entirely on King's placement of the pins for the
boundaries of his property, and believed those pins to be
within the calls of his deed.
Following the dozing of the road, O'Neal stated that he
conducted a variety of acts upon his land, including planting
food plots, building a deer stand, hunting, fishing, ATV
operation, and inviting others to participate in the same.
O'Neal had several different witnesses offer testimony to
this effect on his behalf. O'Neal also admitted that
while the southern boundary of his property was to follow a
due east-west line, unstable terrain and a lake caused his
road to deviate from its initially straight course;
O'Neal reiterated, however, that he favored the
"inside" of his boundary line at all times. No
fence was ever built along the southern border surveyed by
In 2006, O'Neal founded Copiah Creek Camping and
Recreation LLC. The business consisted of charging admission
for those seeking to ride ATVs along the road created by
O'Neal, including the disputed area, as well as other
portions of his acreage. The "tremendous" volume of
ATV traffic resulted in the forming of a "mud pit"
where the road was once flat. The "mud pit" is a
long ditch located below ground level, and the primary area
of dispute among the parties, as it sits north of
O'Neal's road, but south of the boundary line claimed
by Blalock. The "mud pit" also rests east of the
"borrow pit, " which is the area where
O'Neal's road begins its deviation to the south when
following the road in a west-to-east path.
Blalock inherited the property directly south of
O'Neal's on October 23, 2003. Dale Blalock,
Tracy's husband, testified that in 2011, he and
O'Neal traversed the property border, west to east, and
that O'Neal admitted he was encroaching upon the
Blalocks' land at several points. And in May 2013, prior
to a timber sale, the Blalocks had Hunter Newman, a
registered surveyor, perform a survey of their property.
Newman's survey showed the Blalocks claimed a total of
129.97 acres. Newman reviewed the King survey, and determined
that of the seven pins allegedly placed by King in 1990, only
pins 1, 2, and 4 coincided with Newman's
As such, the placement of pins 6 and 7-shown to Newman by
O'Neal himself-reflected a southerly encroachment of
approximately 122.38 feet onto the Blalocks' land. Newman
further testified that for pins 6 and 7 to be accurate, both
his and King's surveys would have to be entirely
inaccurate at a multitude of other locations, which Newman
asserted was highly unlikely. Newman further testified that
King made no mention of pins 6 and 7 on his survey, which
would be against industry custom if King did in fact set
those pins in 1990. Thus, when reviewing the King and Newman
surveys together, there were at least two common aspects
supporting O'Neal's testimony: (1) that, in general,
O'Neal bulldozed a road north of King's southerly
survey line; and (2) that his road was not entirely straight.
In addition to testimony regarding his and King's
surveys, Newman stated that he relied upon aerial photographs
from winter 2006 and summer 2012 to help determine the
location of O'Neal's road in the area of dispute. The
winter 2006 photograph was of a higher resolution than the
summer 2012 photograph, and did not show any such road in the
area of dispute, as alleged by O'Neal. In contrast,
however, the lower-resolution summer 2012 photograph did show
the "mud pit" and road. O'Neal testified that