Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz


1912- Lutz bought lots 14 and 15 – instead of walking up the hill to get to there house, they walked thru lots 19-22.

1928 – Lutz lost his city job, and since then, stayed home tending a garden and cultivating the land in lots 19-22.

1937 – Van Valkenburgh bought lots, west of Gibson place.

1946 – Bad blood developed between the two families.

1947 – Van Valkenburgh bought lots 19, 20, and 21.

Following July – Lutz won a judgment for a prescriptive right – meaning that he conceded that Van Valkenburgh owned the property, but he had a right to use the traveled way to reach his property.

April 8, 1948 – Lutz brought another action, perhaps realizing that his earlier attorney was stupid to concede that he didn’t own the land.

New argument – Lutz retained possession of the land from Van Valkenburgh and early possessors by virtue of having held and posses the same adversely to the possessors upwards of 30 years.


Did Lutz acquire title by adverse possession?




To acquire title to real property by adverse possession, it must be shown by clear and convincing proof that for at least 15 years (statute of limitations) there was an actual occupation under a claim of title, for it is only the premises so occupied and no others that are deemed have been adversely.

1)      Premises are protected by substantial closure or are,

2)      Usually cultivated or improved.

Court reasoning

1)      Premises were not protected by substantial closure

2)      Question relies on whether it was cultivated/improved enough to receive actual title on the land.

  • The use of the garden was not the whole premise.  Lutz failed to use all the premises of the land. This leaves open speculation because the statute clearly limits the premises adversely held to those ‘actually’ occupied, and ‘no others.’
  • Occupation must be under a claim of title, (and hostile) will not operate to bar legal title, no mater how long the occupation may have been.
  • His improvements, on the land, were not enough to be considered for a claim of title. They were described as ‘junk’ ‘rubbish’ and ‘debris.’
  • Subsequent words and conduct show that he did not actually think that he owned the land in argument here.
  • “What we are saying is that proof fails to establish actual occupation for such a time or in such a manner as to establish title by adverse possession.

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