Heard: January 11, 2019.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on June 5,
case was heard by Richard T. Tucker, J.
A. Bachrach for the defendant.
D. Berthiaume for the plaintiff.
Present: Massing, Desmond, & McDonough, JJ.
jury-waived trial, a Superior Court judge declared that the
plaintiff has acquired by adverse possession two separate
areas of land contiguous to her property in Shrewsbury. The
defendant, who holds record title to the disputed land,
argues clear error in the judge's factual findings and
legal error in his application of adverse possession
doctrine. We affirm.
plaintiff, Angela Ciamarra Mancini (Mancini), first acquired
the property known as 110 Oak Street in Shrewsbury on June 1,
2000. Mancini's property is improved
with a single-family home. To the east, her lot fronts on Oak
Street. To the west and south, Mancini's land directly
abuts undeveloped, wooded land owned by the defendant,
Spagtacular, LLC (Spagtacular). A survey plan of the
properties, trial exhibit 5, appears in adapted form in the
appendix to this opinion.
shown in the appendix, two areas functionally incorporated
into Mancini's yard actually lie beyond her lot lines and
within the land held (as of record) by Spagtacular. We refer
to them as the disputed areas. (The exhibit calls each area a
"Land of Potential Claim.") The larger of the two
disputed areas is situated behind (i.e., to the west of)
Mancini's house, adjacent to her parcel's northwest
corner. This is a mowed, grassy area, with no permanent
improvements; like the judge we will call it the disputed
back area. The smaller disputed area is located just beyond
one of Mancini's side lot lines, to the south of her
house. This area is largely covered by a paved basketball
court, with one permanent post, backboard, and
hoop. As the judge did, we will refer to it
as the disputed basketball area.
filed this action on June 5, 2014. Spagtacular does not
contest that Mancini has established the elements of adverse
possession as to both disputed areas for the entire time she
has owned the locus, up until commencement of this action,
a total of fourteen out of the required twenty years. See G.
L. c. 260, § 21. Accordingly, this appeal focuses on
whether Mancini has proved adverse possession of the disputed
areas by her immediate predecessor for the remaining six
years, from June 1, 1994 to June 1, 2000. See Luce
v. Parsons, 192 Mass. 8, 12 (1906)
(claimant alleging adverse possession may include evidence of
predecessors' possession). See also G. L. c. 260, §
22; LaChance v. First Nat'1 Bank & Trust
Co. of Greenfield, 301 Mass. 488, 489-491 (1938).
to that inquiry, the judge found the following facts after
trial (including a view). Prior to Mancini's purchase of
her property in 2000, it was owned by the Schwab family.
Mancini's principal witness, Joseph Schwab (Schwab),
moved into the locus in 1983 with his mother and his two
brothers, at age sixteen. From 1983 to 2000, "there
always existed a sharp and delineating tree line that rimmed
the westerly side and southern portion of" the locus.
That tree line never changed during the Schwab family's
occupation of the property.
Schwab family treated as their own the entire area within the
tree line along both the property's southerly and
westerly lot lines. From 1983 until the sale of the property
to Mancini in 2000, the Schwab family "maintained,
utilized, and considered their own the entire area on the
western and southern sides of their lot as extending to and
bounded by the tree line. These areas were maintained by,
among other things, mowing, fertilizing, and on the westerly
side, the installation of a [thirty-five foot by thirty-five
foot] basketball court in 1984 which extends beyond the
actual lot line into the [d]isputed [b]asketball
until Schwab and his brother left home for college, they
mowed and maintained the lawn in the disputed basketball area
(around the perimeter of the paved court) and in the disputed
back area. After the Schwab brothers left, their mother
engaged a lawn service company to perform these tasks. During
the Schwabs' residence at the locus, they never sought
nor received permission to use the disputed areas.
Additionally, the judge expressly found the tree line was in
the same location at the time of trial as it had been when
the Schwabs lived at the locus.
argues that the judge committed clear error in his fact
findings. See Kendallv.Selvaggio, 413 Mass. 619, 620 (1992). In particular,
Spagtacular argues that the evidence at trial was
insufficient to allow the judge to conclude that the
Schwabs' "use and maintenance" of the disputed
areas "occurred from 1983 through the sale of this
property to Mancini in 2000." More specifically,
Spagtacular argues that this finding cannot be properly
supported by Schwab's testimony because Schwab was not
living at the property during the critical six years, from