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Parker v. Weber

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

May 16, 2018


          From the 74th District Court McLennan County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-2039-3

          Before Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Scoggins



         Glenn Weber[1] sued Jay and Lindsey Parker claiming ownership by adverse possession of 20.62 acres to which the Parkers were record owners. After a bench trial, the trial court awarded Weber title to the 20 acres pursuant to the 10- and 25-year statutory limitations provisions for adverse possession. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 16.026; 16.027 (West 2002). Because there is no evidence to support Weber's claim of adverse possession, the trial court's judgment is reversed, and judgment is rendered that Weber take nothing.


         In 2014, Jay and Lindsey Parker (collectively referred to as "Parker") purchased 102 acres from Dick Taylor. At the same time, Taylor separately sold the 20 acres at issue to Parker. A fence separated the 20 acres from the 102 acres. Weber owned 560.9 acres on the north, east, and west sides of the 20 acres. In 2015, Weber sued Parker after a clash between the parties occurred regarding Parker placing a ladder over the fence to access the 20 acres from the 102 acres and Parker's actions in clearing that fence line.

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         The trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its judgment. In nine issues on appeal, the Parkers assert there is no evidence or insufficient evidence to support the trial court's relevant findings and conclusions.

         Findings of fact entered in a case tried to the court have the same force and dignity as a jury verdict. Anderson v. City of Seven Points, 806 S.W.2d 791, 794 (Tex. 1991). Thus, we review findings of fact by the same standards that are applied in reviewing the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting a jury's answer to a jury question. Id. We review the trial court's conclusions of law de novo; that is, we review the trial court's legal conclusions drawn from the facts to determine their correctness. See BMC Software Belgium, N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 794 (Tex. 2002).

         When both legal and factual sufficiency challenges are raised on appeal, the reviewing court must first examine the legal sufficiency of the evidence. See Glover v. Tex. Gen. Indemnity Co., 619 S.W.2d 400, 401 (Tex. 1981); Wells v. Johnson, 443 S.W.3d 479, 492-493 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2014, pet. denied). When reviewing a legal sufficiency challenge, we must consider the evidence favorable to the finding if a reasonable factfinder could and disregard evidence contrary to the finding unless a reasonable factfinder could not. Cent. Ready Mix Concrete Co. v. Islas, 228 S.W.3d 649, 651 (Tex. 2007); City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 807, 827 (Tex. 2005). Anything more than a scintilla of evidence is legally sufficient to support the finding. Cont'l Coffee Prods. Co. v. Cazarez, 937 S.W.2d 444, 450 (Tex. 1996); Leitch v. Hornsby, 935 S.W.2d 114, 118 (Tex. 1996). When the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is so weak as to do no more than create a mere surmise or suspicion of its existence, the evidence is no more than a scintilla and, in legal effect, is no evidence. Kindred v. Con/Chem, Inc., 650 S.W.2d 61, 63 (Tex. 1983).

         In reviewing a factual sufficiency challenge, we must consider, examine, and weigh the entire record, considering both the evidence in favor of, and contrary to, the challenged findings. Maritime Overseas Corp. v. Ellis, 971 S.W.2d 402, 406-07 (Tex. 1998). In doing so, we consider and weigh all the evidence and set aside the disputed finding only if it is so contrary to the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. Id. at 407.

         Adverse Possession

         The doctrine of adverse possession is based on statutes of limitation (three, five, ten, or twenty-five years depending on various statutory factors and conditions) for the recovery of real property. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 16.021-.037 (West 2002); see Wells v. Johnson, 443 S.W.3d 479, 488 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2014, pet. ref'd). It allows a person to claim title to real property presently titled in another and ultimately vests title to the property with the adverse claimant. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann § 16.030(a) (West 2002); Session v. Woods, 206 S.W.3d 772, 777 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2006, pet. denied).

         Adverse possession is defined as "an actual and visible appropriation of real property, commenced and continued under a claim of right that is inconsistent with and is hostile to the claim of another person" throughout the statutory period. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.021(1) (West 2002) (emphasis added). See Minh Thu Tran v. Macha, 213 S.W.3d 913, 914 (Tex. 2006); Moore v. Stone, 255 S.W.3d 284, 288 (Tex. App.-Waco 2008, pet. denied). Exclusive possession of the land is required to support an adverse possession claim; thus, the claimant must wholly exclude the owner from the property. Harlow v. Giles, 132 S.W.3d 641, 646-47 (Tex. App.-Eastland 2004, pet. denied). Possession must be actual, visible, continuous, notorious, distinct, hostile, and of such character as to indicate unmistakably an assertion of a claim of exclusive ownership in the occupant. Id. Due to the harsh nature of divesting a property owner of title otherwise rightfully held, the statutory prerequisites must be strictly complied with. Wells, 443 S.W.3d at 488; see also Tran, 213 S.W.3d at 915. Thus, one seeking to establish title to land by virtue of the statute of limitations ...

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