January 11, 2019.
N.E.3d 864] Real Property, Adverse possession,
ACTION commenced in the Superior Court Department on June 15,
2016. The case was heard by Thomas P. Billings, J.
P. Allen (Katharin M. Unke Smith also present) for the
M. Davidson, Newton, for the plaintiffs.
Massing, Desmond, & McDonough, JJ.
defendants, Christoffer and Cheryl Marie Abramson, appeal
from a judgment declaring that the plaintiffs, Arlene and
Gary Miller, acquired by adverse possession a thin slice of
the Abramsons land situated just across the parties shared
lot line. The Abramsons argue that the Millers [131 N.E.3d
865] only open and adverse use of the disputed area occurring
continuously for the required time period amounts to nothing
more than basic suburban landscaping -- mowing, fertilizing,
and occasional trimming of trees and shrubs. The Abramsons
claim that under Massachusetts law, this sort of yard work is
simply not enough to satisfy the elements of adverse
possession. We disagree and affirm.
facts we recite are taken from the judges findings, made
after a jury-waived trial, and are supplemented by
uncontroverted evidence in the record. The plaintiff
Millers live in a single-family home at 11 Fellsmere Road in
Newton, on a corner lot at the intersection with Ward Street.
The defendant Abramsons live at 211 Ward Street in Newton.
Fellsmere Road dead-ends onto Ward Street. As shown in the
plan of land we include as an appendix to this opinion, the
back of the Millers property directly abuts one side line of
the Abramsons lot. The parties shared lot line is straight,
running from Ward Street to the back of the Abramsons
property. The area disputed by the parties forms a thin
triangle, about 492 square feet in size, the base of which is
along the Abramsons back lot line and one side of which is
along the parties shared lot line.
Millers use and occupation of the disputed land was
interrupted for purposes of adverse possession by June 15,
2016, when the Millers filed this action, in which the
Abramsons counterclaimed. See Pugatch v. Stoloff, 41
Mass.App.Ct. 536, 542 n.8, 671 N.E.2d 995 (1996) (complaint
to establish title immediately interrupts adverse
possession). Accordingly, the Millers goal at the parties
jury-waived trial was to prove their continuous use and
occupation of the disputed area over a twenty-year period
prior to or ending in June 2016. See G. L. c. 260, § 21.
Millers purchased their home in 1986 and moved in the
following year. At the time they moved in, there was a line
of shrubs and small ...