Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Court rules on superior title to/adverse possession of disputed property

SCOTT A. HEATON, ET AL. v. DEAN STEFFEN, ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. August 27, 2009)

This litigation is about disputed ownership of 20 acres of mountain land in Carter County. The case was tried without a jury resulting in a judgment for Dean Steffen ("the defendant"). The trial court found that there was no question as to the amount or location of the disputed property ("the Disputed area"). Brothers Scott A. Heaton and Daniel J. Heaton ("the plaintiffs") proceeded on two theories: (1) that they had superior title to the Disputed area, and, if not, (2) that the land had been adversely possessed long enough to sustain their ownership. The court found that the defendant, who purchased his land in 1985, had superior title to the Disputed area through deeds that dated back to the 1800s. The defendant's chain of title did not vary in description or acreage. The court found that the plaintiffs' title to the Disputed Area was based solely on a deed of correction made in 1987 by family members, a deed that the court found had no legal basis. The trial court also found that the plaintiffs had not established adverse possession. After judgment was entered for the defendant, the plaintiffs moved to alter or amend the judgment, asking, among other things, for an order defining the complete boundaries of their land to include the Disputed area. The trial court denied the motion. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website: