June 27, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Putative Adverse Possessor’s Property Rights are Superior to Everyone Else’s Except Actual Owner

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lensky v. DiDomenico on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Adverse Possession—Quiet Title—Putative Adverse Possessor.

In 1998, Lensky purchased a one-acre parcel of property from the Valdezes. Title insurance could not be provided because all of the structures and improvements that Lensky had purchased from the Valdezes were “off the deed” and actually located on adjacent land rather than on the deeded property. In 2001, Lensky filed a quiet title action, claiming fee simple ownership to the approximately 23 acres adjacent to the property he had purchased from the Valdezes by adverse possession. Litigation continued for a number of years. The trial court ultimately found in favor of defendants and ordered Lensky to remove certain structures that restricted access to the subject property. It further ordered Lensky and his associates to refrain from confronting defendants as they entered or left the subject property.

On appeal, Lensky contended that the trial court erred in finding that he had no rights as a putative adverse possessor. He argued that the Court of Appeals’ prior decision affirming his lack of legal title to the subject property fully adjudicated his prior claim to the property as an adverse possessor, but that it had no prospective effect. He also argued that his continued possession of the subject property as a putative adverse possessor gives him an interest in the property (including the right to restrict access to it) that is superior to everyone else’s interest except that of the rightful owner. The Court agreed, determining that neither the trial court’s prior order nor the division’s decision upholding that order addressed the parties’ possessory rights or Lensky’s ongoing right to possess the property, and neither prohibited him from continuing to attempt to adversely possess the property.

The trial court’s order prohibiting Lensky from excluding defendants from the subject property was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Adverse Possession Requires Good Faith Belief of Ownership of Property for 18 Years or More

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Gutierrez-Vite on Thursday, November 20, 2014.

Adverse Possession—Defense—Theft—Offering a False Instrument for Recording—Jury Instructions—Testimony.

This case stems from defendant’s alleged attempt to adversely possess a home in Fraser, Colorado. At all relevant times, the home was privately owned by another party, but was unoccupied and in foreclosure. Defendant filed an Affidavit of Adverse Possession with the Grand County Clerk and Recorder’s Office even though she did not own or have permission to be in the home. A jury found defendant guilty of attempted theft and two counts of offering a false instrument for recording.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred because it denied her request to present a defense based on the adverse possession statute and an affirmative defense of mistake of law based on the adverse possession statute. Under the adverse possession statute, in actions filed on or after July 1, 2008, the party claiming the title must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that his or her possession was actual, adverse, hostile, under a claim of right, exclusive, and uninterrupted for at least eighteen years. The statute also requires that an adverse claimant establish a good-faith belief that he or she was the property’s actual owner.

Because defendant admitted that she knew the property was owned by someone else and she only possessed the property for five months, she did not meet the requirements to claim adverse possession. Because her adverse possession claim to the property fails, the adverse possession statute could not relieve her of criminal liability. Further, defendant’s mistaken belief regarding adverse possession law does not relieve her of criminal liability. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying her request to present a defense based on adverse possession and excluding this defense from the jury instructions.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Adverse Possession Not Affirmative Defense for Theft and Trespass

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Bruno on Thursday, November 20, 2014.

Adverse Possession—Defense—Theft—Trespassing—Offering a False Instrument for Recording—Jury Instructions—Testimony.

This case stems from Bruno’s alleged attempt to adversely possess a home in Fraser, Colorado. At all relevant times, the home was privately owned by another party, but was unoccupied and in foreclosure. Bruno filed an Affidavit of Adverse Possession with the Grand County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, even though he did not own or have permission to be in the home. A jury found Bruno guilty of theft, trespassing, and two counts of offering a false instrument for recording.

On appeal, Bruno contended that the district court erred in preventing him from raising the defense of adverse possession to the counts of theft and offering a false instrument. Bruno admitted that he knew the property belonged to someone else and he was attempting to begin a claim of adverse possession. Because the General Assembly did not provide and did not intend to create an adverse possession defense in the circumstances presented here, there is no defense of adverse possession to the crimes charged. Further, Bruno’s mistaken belief regarding adverse possession law does not relieve him of criminal liability. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Adverse Possession of Interest in Water Right Affirmed but Water Court Order Reversed In Part for Reconstruction of Easement to Ensure Water Rights Respected

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Archuleta v. Gomez on Monday, December 3, 2012.

Water Law—Adverse Possession of Legal Interest in Water—Enlargement of Consumptive Use—Injunction—Costs—CRCP 54(d)—Attorney Fees—CRS § 13-17-102(4).

This adverse possession dispute is between neighboring property owners—Ralph Archuleta  and Theodore Gomez—over legal interests in water and easement rights for three ditches diverting water from the Huerfano River in the Arkansas River Basin. The Archuleta Ditch extends across Gomez’s upper (westernmost) parcel of irrigated land but does not reach Gomez’s nonadjacent lower parcel or Archuleta’s parcel, which lies immediately to the east of Gomez’s lower parcel. Manzanares Ditch No. 1 cuts across the southeastern corner of Gomez’s lower parcel and the southern part of Archuleta’s parcel. Manzanares Ditch No. 2 runs across the northern part of Gomez’s lower parcel and previously extended to the northern part of Archuleta’s adjoining parcel until Gomez plowed it under, severing the connection to Archuleta’s property.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the water court in part, concluding that (1) Gomez adversely possessed Archuleta’s legal interests in the Archuleta Ditch and Manzanares Ditch No. 1; (2) awarding costs to Gomez was within the trial court’s discretion under CRCP 54(d); and (3) each party was responsible for its own attorney fees because the water court could reasonably find that Archuleta’s position in the litigation was not substantially frivolous, groundless, or vexatious pursuant to CRS § 13-17-102(4). Because Gomez wrongfully interfered with Archuleta’s water and easement rights for Manzanares Ditch No. 2 and enlarged the use of that ditch’s water, the Court reversed the water court’s judgment in part, directing it to enter an injunction for reconstruction of Manzanares Ditch No. 2 and an easement across the northern part of Gomez’s lower parcel to Archuleta’s adjoining parcel, so that Archuleta will receive the flow of water his legal interest in this ditch entitles him to divert.

Summary and full case available here.