OF JUDGMENT: 08/31/2017
BOLIVAR COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL
JUDGE HON. WATOSA MARSHALL SANDERS
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: ROBERT G. JOHNSTON JOHN MARSHALL
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: ELLIS TURNAGE
This is an appeal from the Bolivar County Chancery Court. The
Winterses assert that: (1) the chancellor incorrectly applied
the elements of adverse-possession law; (2) the chancellor
incorrectly denied judicial estoppel; and (3) the chancellor
wrongly awarded attorney's fees and expenses. We affirm
in part and reverse and render in part.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The Billingses purchased their land in 1984 from the estate
of Pearl Strickland. They had a survey done that showed that
the white picket fence installed by Ms. Strickland was within
the bounds of their land and ten feet north of their southern
boundary. Shortly thereafter, they replaced the picket fence
with a chain-link fence. The Billingses maintained the fence
and surrounding area and shrubbery until 1991.
The Winterses purchased the neighboring land in 1991. They
bought the property without having a survey done and instead
relied on the seller's statement that the chain-link
fence was the property line. At the time of the purchase, Mr.
Winters had a conversation with Mr. Billings about the
property line; what was said, precisely, is disputed. Mr.
Billings testified that he gave Mr. Winters permission to use
the land, whereas Mr. Winters testified that Mr. Billings did
not give him permission. Regardless, Mr. Winters testified
that he maintained the fence and the surrounding area and
shrubbery from 1991 until 1997. He further testified that his
family used the property just south of the fence for barbecue
events, softball, and volleyball.
The Winterses testified that in 1994, they moved a trailer
onto their property around seven to eight feet south of the
fence. They used this trailer as a beauty shop until 1997,
when their home burned down, and they moved into the trailer
until their new home was constructed one year later. They
removed the trailer in 2012.
In 2014, the Winterses went on vacation, and the Billingses
removed the fence because it was in bad condition and a
safety hazard. The Billingses then had two surveys done to
designate their property lines. These surveys showed that the
now-destroyed fence stood ten feet north of their southern
boundary, the same property line as determined by their
earliest survey nearly thirty years before.
Several months later, the Winterses filed a Complaint to
Adjudicate Title and for Other Relief against the Billingses
in the Bolivar County Chancery Court. They asked the
chancellor to: (1) adjudicate them to be the owners of the
contested property; (2) award them damages for negligent,
wrongful, tortious, and intentional trespass against the
Billingses; (3) require the Billingses to pay for the costs
of replacing the fence; (4) award damages for mental and
emotional distress; (5) award attorney's fees; (6) award
punitive damages for the malicious and outrageous conduct of
the Billingses; and (7) enjoin the Billingses temporarily and
permanently from any future trespassing.
Two years later, the Winterses filed an amended complaint
alleging ownership of the property by adverse possession.
The chancellor denied the Winterses' claim of adverse
possession, found the Winterses' claim for compensation
moot, denied the Winterses' claim for judicial estoppel,
and granted the Billingses' request for attorney's
The Winterses now appeal. They claim that: (1) the chancellor
incorrectly applied the elements of adverse-possession law;
(2) the chancellor incorrectly denied judicial estoppel; and
(3) the chancellor wrongly awarded attorney's fees and
"When reviewing a chancellor's decision, our
standard of review is limited." Conliff v.
Hudson, 60 So.3d 203, 206 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App.
2011) (citing Nichols v. Funderburk, 883 So.2d 554,
556 (¶7) (Miss. 2004)). "The chancellor's
determinations will only be reversed when they were
manifestly wrong, ...