Tuesday, December 04, 2007, 3:42 PM

Split COA Affirms No Adverse Possession In Life Estate Case

In a split decision, the COA held today in Pegg v. Jones that the defendants didn't acquire title to Orange County land by adverse possession. The majority, authored by Judge Hunter, held that the trial court made sufficient findings to determine that the defendants' predecessors had a life estate and adversely possessed for at most the less than a year prior to being granted the life estate. And because the defendants didn't thereafter adversely possess for over 19 years to total the 20 years required for adverse possession, the defendants didn't acquire the land by adverse possession.

Judge Tyson, dissenting, would have remanded for further findings. Judge Tyson, who was on a panel that had previously remanded the case for further findings, didn't think the trial court had made the findings that the COA had previously demanded. Judge Tyson also took issue with the majority's failure to address out-of-state authority that a life estate doesn't necessarily toll or suspend an adverse possession. Judge Tyson stated that no prior NC case law addressed the issue but that "it seems clear that if the life tenant repudiates the life tenancy, ... he could adversely possess against the remainderman."

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