CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON AUGUST 29, 2016
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE RANDALL L. MACY
L. CLAGGETT of Claggett & Dill, Prof. LLC Spearfish,
South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant.
TIMOTHY R. JOHNS of Johns & Kosel, Prof. LLC Lead, South
Dakota Attorneys for defendants and appellees.
GILBERTSON, Chief Justice
Ron Underhill appeals the circuit court's denial of his
claims for quiet title and conversion in relation to a garage
located on his land. The circuit court denied these claims
after determining that Carmen Walton and Rocky and Barbara
Mattson (collectively, "Defendants") acquired the
garage and a small area of land surrounding it (collectively,
"the Property") through adverse possession. We affirm.
and Procedural History
This suit involves several properties located along Taylor
Avenue in Deadwood, South Dakota: Lots 8A, 59, 60, and 61 of
Block 35. Taylor Avenue is a north-south street that
terminates in a dead end on the north. Lot 59 is the
northernmost lot abutting Taylor Avenue on the west, with
Lots 60 and 61 sequentially lying to the south of Lot 59. Lot
8A abuts Taylor Avenue on the east, opposite Lot 61. Taylor
Avenue's northern terminus curves slightly to the
northwest and actually lies on Lots 59 and 60. The disputed
property in this case consists of a one-car garage and the
land on which it sits, which also lies on Lots 59 and 60,
abutting Taylor Avenue's northern terminus. The property
sits on a hillside with an ascending slope to the north and
steep drop-offs to the south and west.
Carmen Walton is the current record owner of Lot 8A, where
she resides with her parents. Walton purchased Lot 8A and the home
located thereon from the Mattsons on January 30, 2001. The
Mattsons purchased the lot and home from James and Doris
Kennedy on February 10, 1976. The Kennedys purchased the lot
and home from Ole and Mary Peterson on April 23, 1952. The
Petersons acquired the property in 1914, and Ole constructed
the garage in 1935. Each of the foregoing owners used the
garage during their ownership of Lot 8A.
The various owners of Lot 8A have a history of using and
maintaining the garage. During the time Mattsons owned Lot
8A, their children used the area around the garage as a
playground, and Rocky Mattson installed fencing to prevent
their children from falling down the steep slopes. He also
conducted repairs to the property, including reroofing the
garage and stabilizing the hillside adjoining one wall of the
garage. Walton and her father poured a concrete floor and
driveway, raised and straightened the building, adjusted the
garage doors, inserted new supports in the interior, painted
the exterior, removed a tree behind the garage, and replaced
the roof. Mr. Walton landscaped the property by placing 10
tons of gravel around the garage to improve water drainage.
He also used a skid loader to level areas of the property and
built a retaining wall to help prevent the garage from losing
Underhill is the current record owner of Lots 59, 60, and 61.
Underhill resides in a home located on Lot 61, which he
acquired sometime in the year 2000. Underhill purchased Lots
59 and 60 from Martin C. Guth around September 26, 2012. Guth
obtained a total of 19 lots, including Lots 59 and 60, from
RTD Development Co. on April 6, 1973.
Ownership of the garage did not come into question until the
1990s. In 1995, Mattsons first learned that the garage was
located on Lots 59 and 60 and that those lots were owned by
Guth. In 1997, the Deadwood City Attorney notified Guth that
the garage and Taylor Avenue's northern terminus were
located on Lots 59 and 60. Guth, who lived in Wisconsin at
the time, was unaware that the garage existed or that the
various property owners of Lot 8A had been using it for
decades.Mattsons communicated with
Guth several times about formally purchasing the property,
but apparently no agreement was reached.
Subsequent to purchasing Lots 59 and 60, Underhill initiated
this suit to quiet title in the disputed property on July 8,
2013. He also sought damages and punitive damages, alleging
that Walton's continued use of the garage amounted to
conversion. A trial before the circuit court was held on
October 14, 2015. The court concluded that Walton had
acquired the disputed property by adverse possession through
her predecessors in interest. ...