Campbell v. Buckler

Decision Date18 July 1974
Docket NumberNo. 39301,39301
Citation220 N.W.2d 248,192 Neb. 336
PartiesWayne L. CAMPBELL and O. Aletha Campbell, husband and wife, Appellants, v. Dennis H. BUCKLER and Harriet L. Buckler, husband and wife, et al., Appellees.
CourtNebraska Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. In appeals in suits in equity, it is the duty of the Supreme Court to try the issues of fact de novo on the record and to reach an independent conclusion thereon without reference to the findings of the District Court. Such independent conclusions of fact must be determined in accordance with the ordinary rules governing the burden of proof and the competency and materiality of the evidence.

2. One who claims title to real estate by adverse possession must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has been in actual, continuous, exclusive, notorious, and adverse possession of the property under claim of ownership for the full period required by the statute.

3. On the appeal of an action in equity, when credible evidence on material questions of fact is in conflict, this court will consider the fact that the trial court observed the witnesses and their manner of testifying and accepted one version of the facts rather than the other.

Richards & Richards, Chappell, for appellants.

P. J. Heaton, Jr., Sidney, Story & Ortman, Omaha, for appellees.

Heard before WHITE, C.J., SPENCER, BOSLAUGH, McCOWN, NEWTON and BRODKEY, JJ., and VAN PELT, District Judge.

BRODKEY, Justice.

This case involves a quiet title action, equitable in nature, brought by the plaintiffs, Wayne L. Campbell and O. Aletha Campbell, husband and wife, against the defendants herein, under the authority contained in sections 25--21,112 to 25--21,120, R.R.S.1943. Plaintiffs claim title to the disputed strip of land involved in this action by virtue of adverse possession for the full statutory period of 10 years. Defendants filed a general denial to plaintiffs' amended petition and also filed a cross-petition against the plaintiffs seeking to recover damages for an alleged trespass by plaintiffs on the land in question, to which the defendants claimed title. Trial was had, and the premises in question were viewed by the trial judge in the presence of counsel for both parties, following which the court found generally against the plaintiffs on their petition and against the defendants on their cross-petition. In his order and judgment the court specifically found as follows: '1. The evidence fails to support the contention of the plaintiffs that the use of the property in question by plaintiffs was actual, open, hostile, and more important, exclusive and continuous for the statutory period of ten years. 2. The delineation of the property in question by plaintiffs is not sufficiently clear, taking into consideration the character of the land involved and all the circumstances of the case.' Plaintiffs then appealed to this court, assigning as error the finding of the District Court that the evidence was insufficient to establish that they had acquired title to the property in question through adverse possession. We affirm.

Actions to quiet title are equitable in nature, and under the well-established rule it is the duty of the Supreme Court to try the issues of fact de novo on the record and to reach an independent conclusion thereon without reference to the findings of the District Court. S. 25--1925, R.R.S.1943; Shirk v. Schmunk, 192 Neb. 25, 218 N.W.2d 433 (1974); Walker v. Bell, 154 Neb. 221, 47 N.W.2d 504 (1951); Eirich v. Oswald, 154 Neb. 8, 46 N.W.2d 686 (1951). Such independent conclusions of fact must be determined by this court in accordance with the ordinary rules governing the burden of proof and the competency and materiality of the evidence. Shirk v. Schmunk, Supra, Beckman v. Lincoln & N.W. R.R. Co., 79 Neb. 89, 112 N.W. 348 (1907). The rule is well established that one who claims title to real estate by adverse possession must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has been in actual, continuous, exclusive, notorious, and adverse possession of the property under claim of ownership for the full period required by statute, which in this state is 10 years. See, Shirk v. Schmunk, Supra; s. 25--202, R.R.S.1943. Our de novo review of the record will be made in the light of these rules.

Plaintiffs and defendants own adjoining farms, and the land involved in this case is located in Section 15, Township 15 North, Range 46, in Garden County, Nebraska. The plaintiffs are the owners of record of the west one-half of that section and the southeast quarter is owned by the heirs of Everett Walsh, deceased, who are named as defendants herein. This controversy involves a determination of the exact location of the boundary line between the adjoining properties of the parties, the defendants asserting that the boundary between the properties is the north-south centerline of the section; whereas plaintiffs claim that the present boundary line is along a line located to the east of that centerline by virtue of their adverse possession of a strip of land immediately to the east of the centerline for the full period required by statute. Plaintiffs brought this action for the purpose of quieting title to the land situated between these two lines.

Plaintiff, Wayne L. Campbell, testified he purchased the west one-half of Section 15 in 1949. He started to farm that land in the spring of 1950 and has farmed it continuously until the present date. He described a pile of rocks located on the land which he assumed marked the southeast corner of the southwest quarter of the section. Using this rock pile as a reference point, he stated that he always farmed along a line running between the rock pile and a fence located in the section immediately to the north of Section 15 and claims that that line is the boundary line between the land of the plaintiffs and that of the defendants.

A significant issue in the case involved the existence or nonexistence of what was referred to in testimony as a 'ridge line,' 'farm ridge,' or 'plow ridge.' Wayne Campbell described that 'ridge line' as 'a deep ridge raised in the ground' and testified that he always assumed that line to be the boundary line between his property and the property adjoining on the east. Other witnesses for the plaintiff also testified in relation to the 'ridge line.' Eugene Bond testified that he was familiar with the land in question, having worked on that land with Wayne Campbell in the years 1964 through 1967. According to Bond, there was a distinct 'farm ridge' forming the eastern boundary of the plaintiffs' property in 1965. Duane Bondegard also testified that he was familiar with the land in question, having owned farm land in the section immediately to the south of Section 15 since approximately 1962. Bondegard stated that he had noticed the 'farm ridge' between the properties of the plaintiffs and the defendants, and that the ridge had been there as long as he had been farming the land immediately to the south. Another witness for the plaintiffs, Edward Schmid, testified that he was acquainted with the land in question, and that to the best of his knowledge, there had been a farm line there for 30 years.

The existence of the alleged 'ridge line' is important because the plaintiffs now assert that it formed a clear line of demarcation between the land farmed by them over the years and that farmed by the defendants. The apparent location of that line was also important to the plaintiffs in 1965, when an irrigation well was drilled on their property. In conjunction with the drilling of that well, several power poles were erected by the Wheat Belt Public Power District. Wayne Campbell testified that he himself directed the placement of those...

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6 cases
  • Barnes v. Milligan
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1978
    ...continuous, exclusive, notorious, and adverse possession under claim of ownership for a full period of 10 years. Campbell v. Buckler, 192 Neb. 336, 220 N.W.2d 248; Shirk v. Schmunk, 192 Neb. 25, 218 N.W.2d In Barnes v. Milligan, supra, we pointed out: "3 Am.Jur.2d, Adverse Possession, § 96,......
  • Rentschler v. Walnofer, 42094
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court
    • April 17, 1979
    ...possession under claim of ownership for a full period of 10 years. Barnes v. Milligan, 200 Neb. 450, 264 N.W.2d 186; Campbell v. Buckler, 192 Neb. 336, 220 N.W.2d 248; Shirk v. Schmunk, 192 Neb. 25, 218 N.W.2d 433. Such 10-year period is fixed by statute. § 25-202, R.S.Supp., In the instant......
  • U.S. Brewers' Ass'n, Inc. v. State
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court
    • July 18, 1974
  • Marfisi v. Spagnola, 40745
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court
    • December 15, 1976
    ...without reference to the findings of the District Court. Kolc v. Krystyniak, 196 Neb. 16, 241 N.W.2d 348 (1976); Campbell v. Buckler, 192 Neb. 336, 220 N.W.2d 248 (1974). However, when credible evidence on material questions of fact is in irreconcilable conflict, this court will, in determi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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