SW Legal studies in Business

City Does Not Get Title to Property by Adverse Possession for Misplaced Road
Description

Minnesota high court held that under state law, a government may not obtain title to property by adverse possession. Hence, a road that was misplaced for decades, and infringes on private property, is likely a trespass and there may be a cause of action by the property owners.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Eminent Domain; Taking; Adverse Possession; Trespass

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Landowners own six property lots on the south side of North Mitchell Lake Road in Fifty Lakes, Minnesota. The lots were registered in 1953 and a 66-foot-wide roadway was dedicated in 1954. The city laid a gravel road in 1971, but it was not right on the roadway. Instead it encroached on the lots from 29 feet to 49 feet along the roadway. The road has been in use since 1971. The property owners sued in 2005 to force the city to move the road to the roadway dedicated in 1954. The city refused and contended the suit was barred by the statute of limitations. The district court agreed and dismissed the suit; the appeals court reversed for the property owners. The city appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The city did not take the land in question by eminent domain. State law specifically prevents the state from taking by adverse possession, so the city cannot claim ownership by that means and the statute of limitations to such actions would not be relevant. Further, the state never obtained title to the property by any judicial proceeding. The law is intended to protect the reliability of titles. Hence, the property owners can sue in equity to eject the city from their property for trespass. It will be determined at trial what kind of trespass has occurred and what the remedy might be.

Citation

Hebert v. City of Fifty Lakes, ---N.W.2d--- (2008 WL 150374, Sup. Ct., Minn., 2008)

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