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Ewing v. Burnet

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Brief Fact Summary.

The United States Supreme Court indicates that every case is different and the Court must look to all of the facts of any particular case, but in its ruling it reiterated the definition of adverse possession in which under a claim of color of title the adverse possessor possesses the property for 21 years and is open and notorious about his adverse possession. 

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Under a claim of color of title, an adverse possessor satisfies the statute of adverse possession if he is open and notorious about his adverse possession after entering the property, and he possesses the property for 21 years.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

It is well settled, that to constitute an adverse possession, there need not be a fence, building or other improvement made it suffices for this purpose, that visible and notorious acts of ownership are exercised over the premises in controversy, for twenty-one years, after an entry under claim and color of title.

View Full Point of Law

In 1803, Jacob Burnet (Defendant) claimed title through adverse possession of an adjacent lot that was inherited by James Ewing (Plaintiff) in 1824. Defendant over the years would dig holes in the soil and sand on the Plaintiff’s inherited property and the Defendant would allow others to also dig holes. Defendant for 24 years also paid taxes on the land. Plaintiff after discovering Defendant tried to eject the Defendant. The relevant statute of limitations for adverse possession in this state is 21 years. At trail, the jury ruled in favor of the defendant and granted ownership through adverse possession. 


May adverse possession take place if the jury is provided with sufficient evidence to show the adverse possessor was open and notorious and possessed the property for 21 years? 


Yes. The Supreme Court notes that every case has different evidence and so there is no set amount of evidence needed to prove adverse possession so long as all of the elements are satisfied. The elements include under a theory of color of title that the adverse possessor enter the land, be open and notorious about his adverse possession, but not necessarily live on the land, and possess the land for 21 years. 


The Court notes that the evidence that was provided supported the claim of adverse possession. 

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