Parker v. Potter

Decision Date12 September 2014
Docket NumberNo. 13–263.,13–263.
Citation2014 VT 109,109 A.3d 406
CourtVermont Supreme Court
PartiesMichael PARKER and Judith Parker v. David POTTER and Susan Potter.

109 A.3d 406
2014 VT 109

Michael PARKER and Judith Parker
v.
David POTTER and Susan Potter.

No. 13–263.

Supreme Court of Vermont.

Sept. 12, 2014.


109 A.3d 408

Phyllis R. McCoy–Jacien, Bomoseen, for Plaintiffs–Appellees.

William J. Bloomer of Bloomer & Bloomer, P.C., Rutland, for Defendants–Appellants.

Present: REIBER, C.J., DOOLEY, SKOGLUND and CRAWFORD, JJ.,* and BURGESS, J. (Ret.), Specially Assigned.

Opinion

REIBER, C.J.

¶ 1. Defendants appeal the Addison Superior Court's ruling in favor of plaintiffs on plaintiffs' adverse possession claim. Defendants argue that the court erred in determining (1) that plaintiffs' predecessors-in-title did not abandon the property when it was foreclosed on, and (2) that plaintiffs' evidence was sufficient to show adverse possession of both a knoll and parking area for the requisite fifteen-year period under 12 V.S.A. § 501. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court.

¶ 2. This dispute involves the parties' neighboring plots of land in Leicester, Vermont. Plaintiffs claim that, through adverse possession, they acquired several strips of land adjacent to their property: a triangular area used for parking, a small grassy knoll, and a narrow strip of land on the eastern side of the roadway leading to plaintiffs' house. These disputed areas are located

within the large expanse of defendants' property. A dirt lane through the woods lies beyond the disputed areas to the south and is connected to the road leading to the properties.

¶ 3. The parties submitted the following evidence regarding the boundaries of the property. Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-title, Norma Jean Ryan (formerly Mrs. Peck), testified that she owned the area that is now the northern portion of plaintiffs' property from 1991 through 1998. Ms. Ryan testified that she and her former husband, Mr. Peck, had used the home as a weekend place prior to remodeling it into a year-round home and adding a two-car garage to the northern end of the house in 1996. Ms. Ryan testified that she and Mr. Peck used to park to the north of the house, but that they parked in front of the garage after the house was remodeled. She did not recall ever using the disputed areas of land, but testified that construction workers had parked to the south of the property during the remodeling and that she would not refute any assertions that she and her husband had used the disputed parking area. She also stated that she was unclear on the exact boundaries of the land, especially to the south of the property. Because Ms. Ryan testified by deposition, the trial court found it difficult to assess her credibility.

¶ 4. On the other hand, the court found credible a former neighbor's live testimony that Ms. Ryan and Mr. Peck, as well as their predecessors-in-title, had used the disputed parking area since 1987. Additionally, the trial court credited the testimony of a contractor hired to work on the house in 1996, who testified that he drove his skid steer in the disputed parking area daily for about two weeks while completing a new foundation for the house, and that he assumed that the parking area belonged to plaintiffs' predecessors-in-title. The contractor also testified that defendants' predecessor-in-title came by on more than one occasion and saw the contractor using the disputed parking area. Not once did the neighbor assert that the property was his or ask the contractor not to use the parking area.

¶ 5. Ms. Ryan testified that she moved out of the house in 1997. According to her

109 A.3d 409

testimony, her former husband remained living at the house until their divorce in June 1998. By July 1999, the property was in the process of foreclosure, and it was vacant. In mid-July 1999, a loan officer with First Brandon National Bank visited the property and observed that the furnishings had been removed from the house. Mr. Peck told the bank's attorney that

he had no objection to the bank shortening the redemption period on the foreclosure and taking over the property immediately. The bank took title through foreclosure in August 1999, and the property remained vacant until the Parkers purchased it December 1999. Based on this evidence, the trial court found that no one was living on the property between July and December 1999.

¶ 6. Plaintiffs have lived year-round on the property since purchasing it in December 1999. Plaintiffs viewed the property with the bank's realtor prior to completing the sale, and the realtor parked in the disputed parking area. Boulders that previously had been placed along the back edge of the parking area, as well as a walkway from the front door to the parking area, remained when plaintiffs bought the land. The trial court found that a former owner had left pallets on the grassy knoll, along with concrete forms and wheelbarrows on the southeast corner of the disputed area. In 2000, plaintiffs placed a park bench on the knoll and began to stack firewood there. In 2011, they cut down some small hemlock trees on the knoll to let in more sunlight. They also stored their boat on the knoll during this time.

¶ 7. In 2012, plaintiffs bought the adjoining southerly lot at a tax sale. In May of the same year, defendants purchased the large expanse of property adjacent to plaintiffs' property. Prior to closing on their property, defendants were aware that plaintiffs had asserted rights to some of the land, including the parking area and the knoll. Defendants went to the house with a surveyor, telling plaintiffs that they were planning on purchasing the neighboring property and that plaintiffs would have to stop using the parking area. On May 13, 2012, defendants moved plaintiffs' boat out of the parking area and put boulders and fencing up to block plaintiffs from using the area. This was the...

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1 books & journal articles
  • Ruminations
    • United States
    • Vermont Bar Association Vermont Bar Journal No. 46-4, December 2020
    • January 1, 2021
    ...v. Supeno, 207 Vt. 108, 185 A.3d 1264 (2018). [31] Field v. Costa, 184 Vt. 230, 958 A.2d 1164 (2008). [32] Parker v. Potter, 197 Vt. 577, 109 A.3d 406 (2014). [33] In re Estate of Neil, 152 Vt. 124, 565 A.2d 1309 (1989). [34] In re Estate of Johnson, 158 Vt. 557, 613 A.2d 703 (1992). [35] I......

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