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Bennett v. Bowditch

Appellate Court of Connecticut

March 15, 2016

THOMAS E. BENNETT
v.
PETER W. BOWDITCH, ET AL

         Submitted on briefs October 9, 2015.

          Action, inter alia, to quiet title to certain of the plaintiff's real property, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield and tried to the court, Hon. Richard P. Gilardi, judge trial referee; judgment for the plaintiff, from which the defendants appealed to this court.

          SYLLABUS

         The plaintiff, who owned residential property adjoining the defendants' commercial property, sought to quiet title to two parcels of land owned by the defendants and to an easement over the plaintiff's property that had benefited the parcels as an access passway. The first parcel consisted of a rectangular area located between the parties' properties at the rear of plaintiff's property, which he used as part of his driveway and as a parking area. For decades, a chain-link fence separated the parcel from the defendants' commercial property. The second parcel consisted of a triangular area running from the front of the plaintiff's property to the rear of the first parcel, which he used as part of his driveway and for access to the rear of his property. Since 1963, when the plaintiff's father originally had purchased the plaintiff's property, the plaintiff and his family had continuously used and maintained the parcels and passway, and the parcels had not been used by the defendants or their predecessors in title. The plaintiff commenced this quiet title action, claiming that he had acquired title to the three areas of land by adverse possession. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff, finding that he had proven by clear and convincing evidence that he had acquired title to the two parcels by adverse possession, which, in turn, extinguished the defendants' easement rights over his property. The court found that title to the parcels had vested in the plaintiff's father in 1978 because he had maintained actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous, and exclusive possession of the parcels for the fifteen year statutory period, which began in 1963. The defendants appealed to this court, claiming that the trial court erred in finding that the plaintiff had met his burden of proving that his use of the parcels was without the consent of the defendants and their predecessors in title, and that the defendants' easement rights had been extinguished. Held :

         1. There was sufficient evidence in the record for the trial court to have found that the plaintiff had proven all of the elements of adverse possession by clear and convincing evidence, including that his use of the parcels was without the consent of the defendants and their predecessors in title; the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish that since 1963, he and his family had continuously used and maintained the parcels, that the defendants and their predecessors in title had never used or maintained the parcels, that access to the parcels from the defendants' commercial property had been blocked by a chain-link fence, and that the plaintiff and his family had exercised dominion and control over the parcels in a manner that was consistent with ownership.

         2. The defendants could not prevail on their claim that the trial court improperly found that their easement rights over the plaintiff's property had been extinguished, that court's finding having been supported by the evidence: the record revealed that the chain-link fence had completely blocked access to the parcels and the easement from the defendants' commercial property, which was sufficient to commence the running of the period of prescriptive use, and that the plaintiff and his family had maintained actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous, and exclusive possession of the parcels and the easement for the fifteen year statutory period; furthermore, as soon as title to the parcels had vested in the plaintiff's father by adverse possession, the easement was extinguished, as it no longer served any purpose because it ceased to provide access to any property owned by the defendants.

         Thomas L. Kanasky, Jr., filed a brief for the appellants (defendants).

         Ann Marie Willinger and James A. Lenes filed a brief for the appellee (plaintiff).

         Beach, Alvord and Mullins, Js. BEACH, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

          OPINION

Page 82

          [163 Conn.App. 751] BEACH, J.

          The defendants, Peter W. Bowditch and Wendy A. Bowditch, appeal from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Thomas Bennett. On appeal, the defendants claim that the court erred in finding that the plaintiff met his burden of proof as to (1) the elements of adverse possession of property, and (2) the extinguishment of their easement rights. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Page 83

         [163 Conn.App. 752] The following facts as found by the trial court are relevant to this appeal. The plaintiff's father, Patrick Bennett, purchased property located at 112-114 Bennett Street in Bridgeport in 1963. He transferred title to the property to the plaintiff in 2006. Since 1995, the defendants have owned commercial property located ...


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