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Hofling v. Csaki

A-1512-071 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

BOUNDARY DISPUTES — By reason of the expertise of the appointed commissioners, New Jersey’s boundary commission statute contemplates summary proceedings, rather than a full trial.

Adjacent landowners contested ownership of a strip of land approximately thirty-five feet wide. One landowner sued the other to quiet title and reform his deed description to include the strip of land. Surveys conducted almost twenty years apart found that the land belonged to the claiming owner. Additionally, that owner had cut down an orchard in the strip planted by the adjoining landowner’s parents. The adjoining landowner defended the quiet title action, claiming that she was the rightful owner through adverse possession or by deed. By agreement of the parties, the court issued an order appointing a survey commission under the boundary commission statute. The commission was made up of two land surveyors and one learned real estate attorney. The commission held hearings, took testimony, and undertook a site inspection. A surveyor for the defending owner stated that the claiming owner’s deed description should be amended to grant them even more land than they were seeking. The commission concluded that the disputed land belonged to the claiming owner. The court permitted the “loser” time to seek a favorable expert opinion. She was unable to find an expert to support her position. The lower court granted summary judgment to the claiming owner. The lower court accepted commission’s findings, disregarding the adverse possession claim, because it found no uninterrupted adverse use because the claiming owner had destroyed an orchard on the disputed land. The defending owner appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling. It found that the record supported the lower court’s conclusion that there was no issue of material fact requiring a trial. The Court noted that every expert report favored the claiming owner. Therefore, there was but one unavoidable resolution of the dispute. Additionally, it held that the boundary commission statute contemplated summary proceedings, rather than a full trial, by reason of the expertise of the appointed commissioners.

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