Sales Contract Does Not Negate Adverse Possession

In a recent Ohio appellate court decision, the Appellate Court overturned a trial court decision that had determined that the existence of a sales contract negated the adversity required to establish ownership by adverse possession.  See Hampton v. Lively, 2020-Ohio-4713.

In Hampton, suit was brought by the Estate of Carol Jean Hampton (the “Estate”) against Chad Lively (“Lively”), who was the record owner of a home, alleging that the Estate had obtained legal ownership of the property by adverse possession.  Lively acquired title to the property in 2016, through the estates of his deceased grandparents – Thomas and Loise Lively (“Lively Family”) – who had acquired title to the property in 1960 and remained the record owners.  It is undisputed, however, that Carol Jean Hampton (“Hampton”), her husband, and three sons all lived at the home from 1980 until 2012.

Ultimately, the trial court determined that the plaintiff  proved “exclusive possession and open, notorious, and continuous use of the property for a 21-year period.”  However, the trial court concluded that Hampton did not prove that the possession was adverse and therefore could not acquire title to the property by adverse possession.  The Estate then filed an appeal contending that the trial court erred by misapplying the meaning of “adverse,” as it relates to an adverse possession claim.

The Court noted that when “a buyer takes possession of property after paying the purchase price, the buyer manifests an intent to treat the property as his or her own because the buyer’s performance triggers the seller’s duty to convey legal title to the buyer.”   As such, because there was evidence that he accepted the check as payment for the property in 1980, as well as other evidence of a sale, Lively should have conveyed legal title to Hampton.  Having believed that Hampton had acquired title upon the purchase of the property, the Court of Appeals found that regardless of whether there was a valid deed of conveyance, Hampton adversely possessed the property by her actions with respect to the property for more than 21 years.

Accordingly, the Appellate Court concluded that the Estate established all of the elements of adverse possession by clear and convincing evidence, reversed the judgment of the trial court, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

To review the Hampton Decision, click here.