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Marengo Cave Co. v. Ross

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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 212 Ind. 624

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A record title may be defeated by adverse possession, which requires that the possession must be actual, visible, notorious, exclusive, hostile to the true owner, and continuous for the full statutory period.

Facts. Appellant Marengo Cave Co. owned land on which stood the opening to a cave.  Appellee Ross owned land adjacent to Appellant’s land, and the cave’s passages extended underground into Appellee’s land.  Beginning in 1883 when the opening to the cave was first discovered, Appellant’s predecessors took complete possession of the entire cave and began using it for exhibition purposes, charging an admission fee.  Over the next 46 years, the Appellant (and its predecessors) advertised the cave in various media, made improvements within the cave, and excluded therefrom the “whole world” except those who paid admission.  Appellee, however, did not know that the cave’s passages extended underneath his land until 1929, when Appellee had a survey made by a civil engineer.  After making this discovery, Appellee brought an action to quiet title to those subterranean passages under his land.  The trial court ruled for Ross, the Marengo Cave Co. appealed, and the Supreme Court of Indiana affirmed.

Issue. Whether a 46-year possession of a subterranean cave that extends beneath another person’s land is open, notorious, and exclusive to obtain title to the cave by adverse possession.

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