Buran v. Coupal
New York Court of Appeals
87 N.Y.2d 173, 638 N.Y.S.2d 405, 661 N.E.2d 978 (1995)
Robert and Arlene Buran (plaintiffs) owned land that bordered Lake Champlain. John and Janet Coupal (defendants) owned land that abutted the corner of the Burans’ land. The Coupals could not access the lake from their land, so they built a seawall that travelled over the Burans’ land into the lake. In 1979, the Burans sued John (but not Janet) for trespass. In1982, John filed an amended answer (his third answer), which for the first time asserted that the Burans’ complaint should be dismissed because John and Janet co-owned the property as tenants in the entirety, making Janet a necessary party. Soon thereafter, the Coupals conveyed the property to Ultimate Investment Services Inc., Ltd. (Ultimate) (defendant), a company they owned and controlled. The Burans then served Ultimate with a summons. When Ultimate reconveyed the property to the Coupals in 1989, the Burans filed another trespass suit, this time against Janet. The only substantive difference between the Burans’ prior suit and their subsequent suit was Janet’s inclusion as a defendant. Janet asserted as an affirmative defense that she and John had acquired the relevant property by adversely possessing it for 10 years. After a jury trial on the consolidated cases, the supreme court ordered the Coupals to remove the seawall. In rejecting Janet’s adverse-possession claim, the supreme court ruled that the 1989 complaint against Janet related back to the allegations in the 1979 complaint against John. The appellate division affirmed. The Coupals appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kaye, C.J.)
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