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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jul 31, 2015

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Matthew A. Grossman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Richard Neal Bailey and Lisa Bailey Dishner.

Attorneys 2: Thomas M. Hale and Adam G. Russell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Kimber Littleton, Mark Lee Littleton, and Dale Littleton.

Judge(s): WADE

The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants to settle a boundary dispute. During the litigation, the defendants, who had for years enjoyed the continuous and exclusive possession of their lands, discovered that their ancestors, husband and wife, had acquired title during the “gap years” and, in consequence, had owned the lands as tenants in common rather than tenants by the entirety. The defendants, proceeding as third-party plaintiffs, filed a motion to quiet title against third-party defendants, also descendants of their ancestors, who each claimed an ownership interest in the disputed lands by inheritance. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the third-party defendants. The Court of Appeals affirmed. On remand, the defendants/third-party plaintiffs amended their complaint, seeking to establish title by prescription. The trial court again denied relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the third-party defendants? “undisputed ignorance” of their status as co-tenants in common with their relatives precluded a “presumptive ouster” and, therefore, prevented the defendants/third-party plaintiffs from taking title by prescription. Because the undisputed facts establish that each of the elements of title by prescription has been satisfied, the Court of Appeals is reversed and the original defendants are awarded title by prescription. This cause is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.