- ITT Rayonier
ITT Rayonier, Inc. (ITT), plaintiff, instituted this action to
quiet title to property situated in Clallam County.
In addition, ITT prayed for damages for trespass and for the
ejectment of defendant Arthur Bell.
Bell answered, alleging ITT was not entitled to judgment in its
favor by reason of Bell's adverse possession of the property for
a period greater than the statutory period of 10 years.
Additionally, Bell counterclaimed against ITT praying for
judgment quieting title in Bell.
On July 8, 1986, the trial court entered partial summary
judgment, quieting title in favor of ITT.
The Court of Appeals affirmed.
In 1972, Arthur Bell purchased a
houseboat moored near the mouth of the Big River in
Swan Bay on Lake Ozette.
The property that is the subject of this action is
directly adjacent to that moorage
and was purchased by ITT in 1947.
ITT Pays Taxes
ITT, as owner of record, has paid the property taxes on the land
in question continuously since its purchase.
Did not purchase
Bell admits that he never purchased any of the property involved
in this action.
No Trespassing Signs
Additionally, he concedes that he has never maintained any "No
Trespassing" signs on the property, nor has he ever denoted any
boundary with a fence or any other markers.
A very rough approximation of the amount of land in question is
one-half of an acre.
Not Continuous, Seasonal
Bell testified that he regularly occupies his houseboat in the
spring, summer, and fall, and visits only occasionally during
the winter months
We are asked whether summary judgment against the defendant was
proper based on the defendant's failure to establish his
exclusive possession of the disputed property for the statutory
- Determines if facts constitute as adverse possession.
Whether the facts constitute adverse possession is for the court
to determine as a matter of law.
Relying upon the deposition testimony of Bell and the affidavits
of Klock and Olesen.
Held Bell had failed to establish that his possession of the
property was exclusive.
Court of Appeals
Affirmed, holding Bell's shared use of the property with the
Klocks and Olesens was not possession in the nature one would
expect from an owner, and thus the exclusivity requirement had
not been met.
Adverse Possession - need not be absolutely exclusive
Possession of property by a party seeking to establish ownership
of it by adverse possession need not be absolutely exclusive.
Possession must be type expect of an owner
The possession must be of a type that would be expected of an
- Bell did not act like he owned the property
Bell's possession of the subject property is not of the type one
would expect of an owner.
Not merely causal.
The intrusion onto the land by Klock and Olesen cannot be said
to be merely casual.
Neighbors boats were there before Bell
The evidence shows that they moored their houseboat near the
same property for a longer period than did Bell.
During this period, they used the property in question along
Bell was not controlling the land
Bell's acquiescence in their use of the land cannot be described
to be simply the attitude of a good neighbor.
Shared occupation of land
It shows, rather, that there was a shared occupation of land.
This does not constitute the exclusive use of land necessary for
adverse possession and, in our judgment, reasonable persons
could not conclude otherwise.
Thompson v. Schlittenhart
- Exclusivity was lacking because USE was shared
The court held that the exclusivity element was lacking because
the alleged adverse possessor had shared the use of the disputed
Bell Arg - Look at my specific instances
Nevertheless, by pointing to specific instances of his own use
of the property, Bell attempts to establish his exclusive
- Fails to negate USE by others
Unfortunately, such an approach logically fails to negate
instances of use by others.
Specific instances of property usage merely provide evidence of
- Use is admissible
Evidence of use is admissible because it is ordinarily an
indication of possession.
It is possession that is the ultimate fact to be ascertained.
- Exclusive dominion
Exclusive dominion over land is the essence of possession, and
it can exist in unused land if others have been excluded
fence is the usual means relied upon to exclude strangers and
establish the dominion and control characteristic of ownership.
Wood v. Nelson
- Establishing possession
Possession itself is established ONLY IF it is of such a
character as a true owner would make considering the nature and
location of the land in question.
Young v. Newbro,
Use alone does not necessarily constitute possession.
Ultimate Test - exercise of dominion over land consistent with
action of true owner.
The ultimate test is the exercise of dominion over the land in a
manner consistent with actions a true owner would take.
Bell's burden was to establish specific acts of use rising to
the level of exclusive, legal possession.
Unfortunately, while Bell recited certain improvements he had
made in the property, he failed to state definitively the length
of their existence.
Thus, the record reflects that only a woodshed, a partially
built and then abandoned sauna, and an outhouse have existed on
the property for the full 10-year statutory period.
As the Court of Appeals correctly held, Bell's shared and
occasional use of the property simply did not rise to the level
of exclusive possession indicative of a true owner for the full
We affirm the Court of