New Case Summary – B.G.T.S. v. Balls Brothers Farm

March 21, 2024

Utah Court of Appeals

2024 UT App 37 (Click for full text of opinion)

The Utah Court of Appeals held that a landowner could not claim title to a disputed portion of property through boundary by acquiescence based upon the actions of a predecessor, as it could not show that the predecessor had included the disputed portion in its conveyance of title to the claimant landowner. 

BGTS Properties, LLC and Balls Brothers Farm, LLC owned bordering properties in Cache County. In 1963, BGTS’s predecessor constructed a fence that encroached on the Ball Brothers land. BGTS sued to quiet title to the strip created between BGTS’s property and the fence line on the theory of boundary by acquiescence. This doctrine requires proving  “(1) a visible line marked by monuments, fences, buildings, or natural features treated as a boundary; (2) the claimant’s occupation of his or her property up to the visible line such that it would give a reasonable landowner notice that the claimant is using the line as a boundary; (3) mutual acquiescence in the line as a boundary by adjoining landowners; (4) for a period of at least 20 years.”

The district court had ruled in favor of Balls Brothers, stating that BGTS failed to meet the evidentiary bar required to establish the mutual acquiescence element. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s finding, determining that the district court had applied the wrong legal standard. The Court of Appeals explained that mutual acquiescence only requires “silence or indolence by a nonclaimant.” In other words, the claimant must only show that the nonclaimant did not object to the boundary during the statutory period. BGTS presented evidence that its predecessors had occupied the land up to the fence line without any objection from Balls Brothers’s predecessors from 1963 to 1983. The court found this satisfied the requirement for mutual acquiescence.

Despite the court’s finding, the Court of Appeals upheld judgment in favor of Balls Brothers. The Court of Appeals reasoned that BGTS failed to prove it had legally obtained title to the disputed portion of property from its predecessor. Although BTGS could show that its predecessor would have met the elements of boundary by acquiescence, because the predecessor had actual knowledge of the discrepency between the record boundary and the visible line, it also needed to show that its predecessor actually conveyed the disputed portion of property in question when BTGS purchased the land, which BTGS was unable to do.