Defendants in Trespass Action Failed to Show That They Had Acquired Title to Property Through Adverse Possession.

The parties owned adjacent 40-acre parcels of farmland. A dispute arose as to whether the proper boundary line between the properties was an old, removed fence or a drainage ditch a few yards west of the fence. The plaintiffs filed an action against the defendants alleging that the boundary line was where the old fence had been. They sought to enjoin the defendants from using the property between the drainage ditch and the fence line. The circuit court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, finding that the plaintiffs’ survey was more accurate and that the defendants had not, in the alternative acquired title to the disputed property through adverse possession. The defendants challenged the adverse possession ruling only, and the appellate court affirmed. The trial court’s finding was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The trial court was in the superior position to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses and determine whether the defendants had met their burden to establish continuous, hostile, actual, open, notorious, and exclusive possession of the premises under claim of title inconsistent with the true owner for a period of 20 years (the statutory period under IL law).  All presumptions were in favor of the title owners, and the defendants had failed to meet their burden of proof.  Schlechte v. Budde, No. 5-13-0373, 2014 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1292 (Jun. 18, 2014).

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