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Shaffer v. O'Toole

January 15, 2009

MICAH L. SHAFFER AND JAYME D. SHAFFER, H/W, APPELLANTS
v.
JOHN M. O'TOOLE AND KATHLEEN O'TOOLE, H/W, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Judgment entered January 4, 2008 in the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County, Civil Division, at No. 2006-967.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orie Melvin, J.

BEFORE: ORIE MELVIN, BENDER and FITZGERALD*fn1, JJ.

OPINION

¶ 1 Appellants, Micah L. Shaffer and his wife, Jayme D. Shaffer, appeal from the judgment entered establishing title to the disputed one acre tract of land in Appellees, John M. O'Toole and his wife, Kathleen O'Toole, based upon their claim of adverse possession. After review, we affirm.

¶ 2 The facts as found by the trial court and summarized in its opinion are as follows:

The [Appellees] purchased "twenty four acres of land, more or less, upon which is erected a dwelling house and other outbuildings" from Helen M. Shaffer on November 17, 1973. The house referred to in the deed was built in the 1930's and had a driveway connecting to the township road. The driveway has been open and maintained by Helen Shaffer and now [Appellees] continuously to the present.

At the time [Appellees] purchased this property, [Mr. O'Toole] was told by Helen Shaffer and understood that he owned his side yard to the ridge line of the neighbor's field. From 1973 to present, [Appellees] mowed their [side]yard, constructed gold fish ponds, water pumps to fill their swimming pool, and developed walking trails. The [Appellees] never fenced any of their land.

[Appellants] own real property consisting of a farm containing approximately fifty-seven acres located in Lower Augusta Township, Northumberland County contiguous to [Appellees'] land. The parties share a common boundary on the Western side of [Appellants'] property (the Eastern side of [Appellees'] property).

In approximately April of 2000, [Appellees] hired a surveyor and pointed out the now existing fence to the surveyor as the expected boundary line. The surveyor map and pins set in the ground surprised the [parties]. The surveyor suggested negotiating a settlement with the neighbor. As a result, [Mr. O'Toole], through his surveyor approached Micah Shaffer and his father, Ray Shaffer, and offered to settle the matter by paying approximately $2,000.00 to them instead of spending money on attorneys. [Appellants] refused and made an offer to trade portions of each others property. [Appellees] refused [the trade offer].

Trial Court Opinion, filed 3/24/08, at 2; Certified Record (C.R.) at 20.

¶ 3 On May 31, 2006, Appellants filed a complaint seeking to eject Appellees and alleging damages for trespass. Appellees denied said allegations and filed a counterclaim seeking to quiet title alleging ownership of the land in dispute on the basis of adverse possession. After a bench trial during which the trial court viewed the premises, heard testimony, and considered the independent evidence of survey maps, photographs, invoices, and paid receipts, the trial court granted the Appellees' counterclaim to quiet title and denied Appellants' claims for ejectment and monetary damages.

This appeal followed the denial of post-trial motions and the subsequent entry of judgment in favor of Appellees.

¶ 4 Appellants present three questions for our consideration:

1. Did the Trial Court abuse its discretion or legally err in finding that Appellees' claim for quiet title through adverse possession was not ...


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