818 P.2d 1023 (Utah 1991), 890133, Van Dyke v. Chappell

Docket Nº:890133.
Citation:818 P.2d 1023
Opinion Judge:ZIMMERMAN, Justice:
Party Name:Welby J. VAN DYKE, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Marion Glen CHAPPELL and Deama Ruth Chappell, Defendants and Appellants.
Attorney:Tex R. Olsen, Richfield, for Van Dyke. Marcus Taylor, Richfield, for the Chappells.
Case Date:October 02, 1991
Court:Supreme Court of Utah

Page 1023

818 P.2d 1023 (Utah 1991)

Welby J. VAN DYKE, Plaintiff and Appellee,


Marion Glen CHAPPELL and Deama Ruth Chappell, Defendants and


No. 890133.

Supreme Court of Utah.

October 2, 1991

       Tex R. Olsen, Richfield, for Van Dyke.

       Marcus Taylor, Richfield, for the Chappells.

       ZIMMERMAN, Justice:

       Plaintiff Welby J. Van Dyke filed suit against defendants Marion Glen and Deama Ruth Chappell seeking to quiet title to property in Wayne County, Utah, on the theory of boundary by acquiescence. After a nonjury trial, the court entered an order quieting title in Van Dyke. The trial court found that Van Dyke owned the property in question, based on the theory that a fence line which divided the adjoining parcels of land established a boundary by acquiescence. The Chappells appeal, arguing that (i) the court improperly found that the parties intended the fence to be a boundary line when it actually served only as a barrier for livestock, and (ii) there was insufficient evidence as to one of the elements

Page 1024

needed to establish a boundary by acquiescence, to wit, objective uncertainty as to the boundary's location. We affirm the trial court's determination that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the fence was a boundary. We also hold that there was no need to establish the element of objective uncertainty, and therefore, we have no occasion to address the sufficiency of the evidence on this point.

       The trial court's determination as to the applicable law is reviewed for correctness. See, e.g., Transamerica Cash Reserve, Inc. v. Dixie Power & Water, Inc., 789 P.2d 24, 25 (Utah 1990); State ex rel. Division of Consumer Protection v. Rio Vista Oil, Ltd., 786 P.2d 1343, 1347 (Utah 1990); Scharf v. BMG Corp., 700 P.2d 1068, 1070 (Utah 1985). The factual determinations of the trial court will not be disturbed unless they are clearly erroneous. See, e.g., Grayson Roper Ltd. Partnership v. Finlinson, 782 P.2d 467, 470 (Utah 1989); Copper State Leasing Co. v. Blacker Appliance & Furniture Co., 770 P.2d 88, 93 (Utah 1989); Porter v. Groover, 734 P.2d 464, 465 (Utah 1988). In making such a determination, we consider the evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court. We recite the facts in accordance with that standard. See, e.g., State v. Verde, 770 P.2d 116, 117 (Utah 1989).

       Van Dyke and the Chappells own adjacent parcels of land in Lyman, Wayne County, Utah. The alleged boundary between the parcels is a fence that has been in the same place since approximately 1911. At trial, Van Dyke asserted that this fence line, constructed by the predecessors in interest of both parties, is the boundary. In support of this claim, he relied on the facts that the parties and the community as a whole have treated the fence line as the boundary for a long period of time, that a survey of the area was made in 1966 and was based, at least in part, on the fence line's being the boundary between Van Dyke and the Chappells, and that the fence line is aligned with other fences that run across the entire valley. The Chappells, on the other hand, claimed that the fence runs across the north end of their property and deprives them of the use of nearly one-half an acre of land. The Chappells relied on the record of title and on surveys that were done in 1876, 1935, and 1966. In the early 1980s, the Chappells asserted for the first time that the fence ran across their property. A survey done in 1987 confirmed that the fence line was on the Chappells' land.

       After trial, the court quieted title in Van Dyke. In reaching this conclusion, the court applied the boundary-by-acquiescence test set forth in Halladay v. Cluff, 685 P.2d 500 (Utah 1984), which requires, inter alia, that the parties intended the fence to be the boundary and that there was objective uncertainty as to where the correct boundary was located. The Chappells appeal, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to establish these two parts of the test.

       We agree that the trial court reached the proper result in this case. However, we disagree with the trial court's articulation of the elements of boundary by acquiescence. At the 1989 trial, the court based its determination of the law on Halladay, which we overruled one year later in Staker v. Ainsworth, 785 P.2d 417 (Utah 1990). In the present case, we affirm Staker and hold that it is unnecessary for Van Dyke to show objective uncertainty as to the boundary. Applying this revised boundary-by-acquiescence test, we affirm the trial court's judgment because we find sufficient evidence to support the trial court's...

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