GARFIELD & HECHT, P.C. WINS ADVERSE POSSESSION CASE

by hking on June 26, 2013

On June 17, 2013, Judge Denise K. Lynch of Pitkin County District Court entered an order quieting title in a disputed parcel of riverfront property in Pitkin County to one of Garfield & Hecht, P.C.’s clients. The Court found that the client satisfied all the elements of Colorado’s adverse-possession law. The Court also declared the client to be the prevailing party in the five-year litigation, entitling him to an award of costs.

The ruling by the trial court followed remand from a Colorado Court of Appeals’ Opinion vacating the trial court’s Judgment in the adverse possession case litigated by Chris Bryan in the Aspen office of the Colorado law firm of Garfield & Hecht, P.C.

The Court of Appeals struck down the trial court’s ruling that Garfield & Hecht, P.C.’s client did not satisfy the elements of adverse possession regarding real property along the Roaring Fork River in unincorporated Pitkin County. The appellate court agreed with Garfield & Hecht, P.C’s appellate briefing and oral argument in holding that the trial court erred by misapplying the law of adverse possession. The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law consistent with the appellate Opinion. The Colorado Court of Appeals also vacated the costs and expert fees that the trial court erroneously awarded to the opposing party.

The opposing party petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which Garfield & Hecht, P.C. successfully opposed on numerous procedural and substantive bases.

Adverse possession is a legal principle that favors productive use of land and disfavors waste or neglect of real property. Under adverse-possession law in Colorado, one who uses land of which he is not the record owner may acquire title if his possession has been adverse, actual, continuous, open and notorious, hostile, and exclusive for 18 years or more. Although the adverse-possession statute (C.R.S. §§ 38-41-101, et seq.) was amended in 2008, this case was commenced prior to the legislative amendments to the law, so it was adjudicated under the pre-2008 legal standards.

The case concerned a piece of real property near Basalt, Colorado, along the riverbanks of the Roaring Fork River. Garfield & Hecht, P.C. tried the case on behalf of the adverse possessor and introduced documentary and testimonial evidence supporting the claim. After a 4-day fact-intensive trial, Garfield & Hecht, P.C. succeeded on many of the elements of adverse possession. The trial court, however, ruled that a couple of elements had not been satisfied, defeating the client’s claim for adverse possession. Garfield & Hecht, P.C. successfully appealed that portion of the trial court’s Judgment in both Opening and Reply Briefs and oral argument to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Garfield & Hecht, P.C. lawyers try cases and prosecute appeals throughout the state and federal courts of Colorado and handle a wide array of cases. Inquires about this case, trial practice, appeals, or other legal disputes may be made to Garfield & Hecht, P.C. attorney Chris Bryan (e-mail: cbryan@garfieldhecht.com).

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