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Parker v. Potter

Supreme Court of Vermont

September 12, 2014

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

Page 407

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Addison Unit, Civil Division. Helen M. Toor, J.

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

Page 408

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 ...


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