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Collins v. Moore Family Trust 1999

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 23, 2018

R.D. COLLINS AND NANCY COLLINS APPELLANTS
v.
MOORE FAMILY TRUST 1999 APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/01/2017

         HINDS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. J. DEWAYNE THOMAS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: JAMES CHARLES MARTIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JOHN DENVER FIKE

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

          CARLTON, J.

         ¶1. R.D. and Nancy Collins (the Collinses) own land in Edwards, Mississippi, adjacent to land owned by the Moore Family Trust 1999 (the Moores). The Moores claimed title to a .62-acre parcel of land through adverse possession, and the Hinds County Chancery Court, Second Judicial District, entered a judgment granting the Moores title of the disputed parcel. On appeal, the Collinses argue the chancellor erred by finding the Moores satisfied their burden of proof for adverse possession. Finding no error, we affirm the chancellor's judgment.

         FACTS

         ¶2. As stated, the present dispute focuses on a .62-acre land parcel. The Collinses claim ownership of the land pursuant to a deed, and the Moores claim ownership pursuant to adverse possession. In 1911, the Moores purchased a tract of land adjacent to the contested parcel. After several ownership transfers throughout the years, Hezekiah Moore placed his family's land into a trust in 1999. The Collinses purchased their land, including the subject parcel, in 1984 from the estate of Howard Gorden. Gorden was Nancy's great-grandfather, and he obtained his land, including the subject parcel, around the same time that the Moores purchased their tract.

         ¶3. In 2015, the Collinses and Hezekiah obtained land surveys. The Collinses obtained their survey in August 2015, and Hezekiah obtained his survey a few months later in December 2015. Both surveys showed the contested parcel was within the Collinses' deed description. However, the survey obtained by Hezekiah indicated the parcel might belong to the Moores by adverse possession. On January 29, 2016, Hezekiah filed a complaint asserting ownership of the disputed parcel and argued that his family had adversely possessed the land since 1911.

         ¶4. At a September 27, 2016 hearing, undisputed evidence showed a fence had existed on two of the three sides of the parcel since around 1911. The fence's placement resulted in the parcel being fenced in along with the Moores' property. However, both R.D. and Nancy testified that their predecessors had granted the Moores permission to use the land and that they had then extended this permission to the Moores after purchasing the land in 1984.

         ¶5. Both R.D. and Hezekiah testified at the hearing that R.D. asked Hezekiah about the fence placement after the Collinses purchased their land in 1984. However, the testimony differed as to the conversation's content and outcome. Hezekiah testified that he stated his grandfather and Nancy's great-grandfather had agreed on the property line and the fence's placement many years ago. According to Hezekiah, the fence's original placement predated his birth. However, he testified that his family's cattle had grazed on the land for as long as he could remember. He further stated that his family had allowed third parties to use the land for cattle grazing.

         ¶6. As stated, in December 2015, Hezekiah obtained the survey of his family's land indicating that the disputed parcel might belong to the Moores through adverse possession. After receiving the survey, Hezekiah replaced the old fence on the parcel with a new one and placed "No Trespassing" signs on the land.

         ¶7. R.D. testified that he and Nancy bought their land, including the disputed parcel, in 1984. R.D. stated that they had paid taxes on the parcel each year. After their land purchase, R.D. asked Hezekiah about the fence's placement on the parcel. R.D. testified that Hezekiah said the Gordens agreed to let the Moores build the fence in its present location. R.D. further testified that Hezekiah told him they should let the fence stay in its present location. R.D. stated he agreed to the fence's placement because he benefitted by not having the upkeep on the parcel. Like ...


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