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Pietrangelo Cook wins Fayette County boundary dispute

Fayette County Chancellor Martha Brasfield ruled in favor of Pietrangelo Cook’s clients this month in a boundary dispute that required two weeks of trial and the testimony of nearly two dozen witnesses. The Final Order clarified the location of an old creek bed featured in deeds dating back to the 1800’s and established the true boundary line between two large properties south of Highway 64.

The dispute began in 2007 when Pietrangelo Cook’s clients were surveying their property and discovered that the Defendant, their adjacent neighbor to the North, had recorded a “corrected” warranty deed, which purported to extend its acreage well into the Plaintiffs’ land, beyond the boundary line described in earlier deeds.

Pietrangelo Cook filed a quiet title action in 2008 on behalf of its clients and conducted an exhaustive review of historic deeds. The Defendant argued that the true boundary line referred to in these deeds, described as the “the meanders of the Old Cypress Creek”, was impossible to locate and that the deeds actually referred to the Cypress Creek Canal, a large man-made drainage ditch constructed in the early part of the 20th century.

Alternatively, the Defendant argued, he owned title to the now-disputed acreage between the two land-owners by virtue of a legal theory called “adverse possession,” which shifts title away from a true property owner when the “adverse possessor” uses the property “exclusively, actually, adversely, continuously, openly and notoriously” for a specific period of time.

“We were fighting this case on a number of parallel fronts,” said Pietrangelo Cook attorney Darrell Phillips, one of the lawyers who tried the case. “First, we had to show the Court that the Old Cypress Creek was not the Cypress Creek Canal and that, in fact, it was there and our experts could find it. Second, we had to prove that the Defendant had not been adversely possessing the disputed property as he claimed.”

Surveyors Bill Ollar, Doug Swink and Jason Harris thoroughly mapped the legal descriptions and located points from historic deeds that were still ascertainable on the ground and which reflected the true location of the old creek bed. Swink and Harris then took historic aerial photographs of the disputed property and produced elaborate overlays depicting the changing landscape over the entirety of the 20th century, which clearly and effectively showed the existence and location of the old creek, distinguishable from the more modern Cypress Creek Canal.

During trial, Pietrangelo Cook’s attorneys produced witness testimony undermining the Defendant’s claims of adverse possession and convincingly persuaded the Court that the Defendant had not met the high burden required to sustain such a claim.

“The Defendant introduced testimony from more than a dozen fact witnesses all who claimed that they had used our client’s property ‘adversely’ in one form or another,” said Phillips. “On cross-examination, we were able to show that their stories all conflicted with one another and, more importantly, that they did not meet the clear standard established by Tennessee statute and controlling case law.”

In its Order, the Court adopted the survey produced by Pietrangelo Cook’s expert surveyors and found that the Defendant’s claims of adverse possession were not supported by the evidence.

To read the Final Order of the Fayette County Chancery Court, click here.

For more information contact:
Anthony C. Pietrangelo
PH: 901-685-2662
FX: 901-685-6122
apietrangelo@pcplc.com