Fence litigation in Oklahoma
If you are prone to read and enjoy court cases, here is a civil suit that centered around a long-standing fence that wasn't on the boundary. And of course it wouldn't be a real Oklahoma law suit unless it involved blocking a drive or shooting a dog. This case has both:
In a nutshell there was a mostly N-S fence of unknown origin between two properties and an access drive to the properties ran adjacent to the fence. The east owners (McGlothlin) sued the west owners (Livingston) for a portion of Livingston's land that fell on their side of the fence. Livingston was in possession of a 20 year old survey that indicated the location of the boundary and the fence.
East Landowners were granted summary judgment determining the fence to be the boundary, by acquiescence of the parties, and prescriptive title was given to East Landowners to those portions of West Landowners' property lying beyond the surveyed boundary. West Landowners appealed.
The appellate court reversed the decision to give the plaintiff everything "on his side of the fence" by acquiescence and adverse possession. Some of the reasoning in this reversal was what I thought was sound legal principles, to-wit:
"…a property owner is not required to place a fence on the property line and does not give up any rights by placing a fence off the property line and along some line within the property. In my opinion, East Landowners have the additional burden of showing who built the fence for purposes of boundary by acquiescence and adverse possession." The fence in this case was apparently built in the 1940's for livestock purposes.
"A careful reading of the cases set out above reveals the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence applies only where there is uncertainty or doubt as to the true boundary line, or where no surveyed or recognized boundary line existed when the fence was erected...... which held boundary by acquiescence did not apply because the deed clearly described the true boundary and there was no evidence "that the location of the true boundary was unknown."
"East and West Landowners took title to their respective properties by written deed with full knowledge of the legally-described boundaries of their property. Later surveys confirmed the boundary lines. Thus, there is no dispute, no mistake, and no ignorance regarding the true boundary line dividing East and West Landowners' properties. Because of this certainty of the true boundary line, East Landowners are not attempting to enforce an agreement by which the fence establishes a boundary with their neighbor because of uncertainty regarding the true boundary; rather, they are claiming land belonging to another. As discussed below, this may only be accomplished by deed or by adverse possession. It cannot be accomplished by the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence or the doctrine of boundary by agreement. To apply the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence in this manner violates the Statute of Frauds.
It appears as though both parties knew where their "legal" boundary was located. The plaintiff wanted a portion of his neighbor's land simply because it was on his side of a fence.
I think the appeals court got it right.
"East Landowners' son shot West Landowners' dog."
Now, that's entertainment. McGlothlin is a really good case to read. I was able to figure out just where the property is. I can post that later.
Well stated by the court
Wonder if anyone tried to persuade the plaintiffs to not sue. It also seems like the plaintiffs might have had better luck if they only claimed adverse possession.
Great read!!! Thanks for sharing!