Campbell v. City of New Haven

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtWHEELER, C.J. (after stating the facts as above).
Citation101 Conn. 173,125 A. 650
Decision Date11 July 1924

Appeal from Superior Court, New Haven County; John W. Banks, Judge.

Action by Michael F. Campbell against the City of New Haven. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant appeals. Error, and new trial.

This action was in the nature of an appeal from the action of the authorities of defendant city taking by condemnation proceedings under its charter lands of the plaintiff for park purposes. The parties were at issue in the superior court solely upon the question of just compensation for the land taken, viz., parcel marked 2 upon Exhibit A attached to the finding, and bounded and described as follows: Southerly on Congress avenue; westerly on West river; northerly on-- easterly on land of Addington E. Newhall and Boulevard southerly on land of Joseph Krajewski; easterly on land of Joseph Krajewski; southerly on land of Henry W. Breunig; and easterly on land of Henry W. Breunig to place of beginning on Congress avenue. And parcel marked 93, upon such Exhibit A, and bounded and described as follows Southerly on Congress avenue; westerly on Henry W. Breunig northerly on Joseph Krajewski; and easterly on Boulevard. Parcel 2 is bounded in part on the east by a parcel of land belonging to the estate of Addington E. Newhall at the commencement of the condemnation proceedings, and has a frontage on the Boulevard of about 180 feet, and a depth varying from 1 to 20 feet, and lies between a portion of parcel 2 and the Boulevard. We shall designate this hereafter as parcel 3. Parcel 2 was originally all meadow land. It had been filled along the whole of Congress avenue to practically the street level for a distance of about 200 feet from the avenue and along the whole of the Boulevard frontage to approximately the same depth and to some extent beyond this. The filling had resulted from the use of the land for free public dumpage. The plaintiff appellee has worked over the filling dumped on parcel 2 since the year 1911, at a considerable expenditure of money, and after the commencement of these proceedings he built a fence along the street line of the Boulevard and in front of his own land and that of Joseph Krajewski, and claims to have been in adverse possession of parcel 2 since 1913, basing his claim upon his acts in directing and supervising public dumping upon the Newhall land as well as upon parcel 2, and to the erection of a fence along the Boulevard in front of parcel 2 and in front of the Newhall tract. At the time of the commencement of the condemnation proceedings and of the bringing of this action the appellee had not been in adverse possession of the Newhall parcel for 15 years, nor did he have any record title to this parcel. No evidence was offered of any assertion of title adverse to the plaintiff's claim of title nor of any possession adverse to plaintiff's claim of title nor as to his title to the land west of the Boulevard.

In reassessing the damages for the taking by the defendant of parcel 2, the court took into consideration the situation, possession, and title of the land designated as parcel 3, upon the theory that parcel 2 was increased in value by reason of the probability that plaintiff would thereafter acquire title to it by adverse possession.

George W. Crawford and Thomas R. Robinson, both of New Haven, for appellant.

George E. Beers and Harry Bernblum, both of New Haven, for appellee.

Argued before WHEELER, C.J., and BEACH, CURTIS, KEELER, and HAINES, JJ.

WHEELER, C.J. (after stating the facts as above).

The defendant city duly proceeded under its charter authority to take by condemnation parcels 2 and 93 as numbered upon the map, Exhibit A, made a part of the finding. The plaintiff appealed from the award of the bureau of compensation of the defendant to the superior court, and that court rendered its judgment increasing these awards, and the defendant took its appeal to this court for the errors of the trial court in adopting an improper standard in its assessment of just compensation and in making certain rulings on evidence. Errors assigned as to the improper standard adopted concern parcel 2, while the errors as to rulings on evidence concern parcel 93. Parcel 2 is bounded upon the east by the street named Boulevard about 70 feet, and by land of the Newhall estate about 180 feet. The land of the Newhall estate is a triangular strip running to a point in the Boulevard, where it meets the line of the plaintiff's land and being at its northern boundary about 20 feet wide. The plaintiff has no title to this triangular strip, neither by record nor by adverse possession. The city has not taken nor claimed to have taken any interest or estate which the plaintiff may have in the Newhall parcel. Nor has the trial court assessed any part of the just compensation awarded the plaintiff for the taking of any interest or estate in the Newhall estate. The use the court made of parcel 3 in assessing just compensation for the taking of parcel 2 was this: The court was of the opinion that a substantial amount should be added to the market price of parcel 2 because of the probability that the plaintiff would in a short time acquire the title to parcel 2 by adverse possession, thus giving to parcel 3 frontage upon the Boulevard along its entire east side. The acts upon which plaintiff bases his claim to have been in adverse possession of parcel 3 since 1913 are confined to the direction and supervision of the public dumping upon parcel 3 from 1913 on and the erection of a fence along the east boundary of parcel 3, namely the Boulevard. The building of the fence after the proceeding in condemnation had begun could not be considered in establishing a title by adverse possession in plaintiff. The mere finding that plaintiff had directed and supervised the public dumping upon parcel 3 would fall far short of establishing a title by adverse possession, even though these acts had continued for the statutory 15 years. They do not present the essential elements from which the trial court could find a title by adverse possession as a fact. Stevens v. Smoker, 84 Conn. 569, 574, 80 A. 788. And, if so found, we should be compelled to hold that this conclusion was erroneous because not legally or logically consistent with the subordinate facts. Layton v. Bailey, 77 Conn. 22, 28, 58 A. 355. But let us assume, as the court does, that the subordinate facts found for the period covered would suffice to constitute the essential elements of adverse possession for this period.

In support of its main contention plaintiff urges that in virtue of his acts of adverse possession he had acquired an interest in parcel 3. It must be conceded that all kinds of property, and every kind of right or interest in property which has a market value cannot be taken in invitum, without making just compensation therefor. And, where one enters into occupancy of land under actual or apparent authority and places improvements upon the land which is thereafter taken in condemnation proceedings, he and not the owner is entitled to be compensated for the value of such improvements. Thus, where a municipality, upon competent advice that a squatter title was valid, purchased it and erected a schoolhouse thereon, and, being ejected, brought condemnation proceedings, it was held that the municipality was entitled to the value of these improvements and not the owner. Id.; Wendel v. Spokane County, 27 Wash. 121, 67 P. 576, 91 Am.St.Rep. 825; note, Ann.Cas. 1912A, 245; Perry v. Chissold et al., [1907] App. Cas. 73, was a case of this kind. The possessor was not a mere trespasser. Andrews v. Nantasket Beach R. Co., 152 Mass. 506, 25 N.E. 966.

In the case of a mere trespasser upon land the improvements he makes belong to the owner, and on condemnation the trespasser cannot obtain compensation for their value. In Cohen v. St. Louis R. Co., 34 Kan. 158, 8 P. 138, 55 Am.Rep. 242, the court said:

" Of course it must be admitted that where a mere wrongdoer, a naked trespasser, enters upon the land of another, and makes improvements thereon of a permanent character, such improvements become the property of the landowner; and this will apply to railroad companies as well as to others." Id., Nichols on Eminent Domain, § 120, and cases cited.

Upon the facts found the plaintiff in the acts done on parcel 3 was a mere trespasser; he had no actual or apparent authority for what he did. So that, even though the facts found showed that the plaintiff had had adverse possession of parcel 3 for the period he claims, and defendant had condemned parcel 3 the plaintiff, a mere trespasser upon this land, could not have obtained compensation for the improvements, if any, which he had made on the land during the time of his occupancy. The question raised by the appeal is more remote than that of the trespasser seeking compensation in condemnation proceedings for the improvements he had made. It is whether the trespasser's improvements on land occupied by him adversely enhance the value of his adjoining land because of the probability that his continued trespass will be undisturbed until his occupancy by adverse possession shall ripen into an indefeasible title. If increased compensation is given for the taking of parcel 2 upon the theory that the plaintiff will some day own the adjoining land--parcel 3--which he then holds in adverse occupancy, and later the true owner dispossesses this trespasser, and the defendant subsequently brings condemnation proceedings to take parcel 3, he must make the true owner just compensation for the land so taken. The result will be that the municipality will have paid more than just compensation to the plaintiff. Until the plaintiff acquires...

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