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Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz

Todd Berman

InstructorTodd Berman

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz

Citation. 304 N.Y. 95, 106 N.E.2d 28 (1952)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Appeal regarding an action for claim of title under adverse possession of a right of way.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

At the time of this case, to acquire real title to property by adverse possession, it must be shown by clear and convincing proof that for the statutory period of time there was actual occupation under a claim of title. The essential elements of proof are that the premises are protected by a substantial enclosure or usually cultivated or improved.


The Appellant appeals decision from lower court entering title to the Appellee under a claim of title for adverse possession. For several years the Appellee had traveled over land they did not own adjacent to their lot. Several years later, the Appellants purchased the land that the Appellee traveled over and erected a fence across the traveled way that the Appellee claimed a right to use. The Appellee initiated a lawsuit claiming his right of way was being interfered with. The trial court found for the Appellee and the case was appealed.


Whether title was acquired to subject premises by virtue of adverse possession?


Reversed. The proof fails to establish actual occupation for such a time or in such a manner as to establish title by adverse possession. The premises were not protected by a substantial enclosure and there is no proof to show that cultivation incident to the garden utilized the whole of the premises claimed. Furthermore, the facts failed to show the premises were improved.


The actions of the Appellee satisfied the adverse possession statute as the Appellee’s possession of the premises in question were akin to that of a road owner and indicated an intent to claim the property as his own. There is no requirement in either statute that proof of adverse possession depends upon cultivation of the whole plot.


Title to real property may be acquired by adverse possession. Title by adverse possession results from the operation of the statute of limitations for trespass. If an owner does not, within the statutory period, take action to eject a possessor who claims adversely to the owner, title vests in the possessor. In order to have claim of title under adverse possession the possession must be open and notorious, actual and exclusive, continuous and hostile.

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