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Halpern v. Lacy Investment Corp.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Notwithstanding, Defendant’s predecessor in title’s refusal to sell Plaintiff the adjacent land next to Plaintiff’s property, Plaintiff bulldozed, cleared, and included the land as part of his backyard. Plaintiff sued to quiet title in himself through adverse possession, but the trial court denied his claim because he did not act under a good faith claim of right. Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    To take land by adverse possession, the adverse possessor must do so under a good faith claim of right.

     

    Facts.

    Lacy Investment Corporation’s (Defendant) predecessor in title refused to sell the extra land adjacent toHalpern’s (Plaintiff)property to Plaintiff. Nonetheless, Plaintiff bulldozed, cleared, and included the land as part of his backyard. 

    Issue.

    Whether a good faith claim of right is required to take land by adverse possession.

    Held.

    Yes. The trial court’s ruling is affirmed. To take land by adverse possession, the adverse possessor must do so under a good faith claim of right

    Discussion.

    Claim of right, which is the legal equivalent to hostile possession, refers to the possessor’s belief entitlement to possession of the land. Entering the land without an honest claim of right is merely trespass and cannot evolve into title by adverse possession. Absent conflicting evidence, a court may infer the existence of a claim of right if there are acts or conduct related to the property inconsistent with the true owner’s title. Plaintiff’s attempt to purchase the land from Defendant demonstrates that Plaintiff knew that the land belonged to someone else. Therefore, Plaintiff’s entry was not under a good faith claim of right.


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