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Lawrence v. Town of Concord

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
788 N.E.2d 546 (2003)


Facts

Helen Burke Frazier inherited a house and lot from her adoptive mother, with the condition that the property would pass to the town of Concord (defendant) if she died without issue. After she died without issue in 1965, her husband Joseph Frazier rented out the property for several years. In his will, admitted to probate in 1997, he devised it to Albert Lawrence (plaintiff). Lawrence asserted that Frazier had acquired title to the property through adverse possession. The town took possession of the property through eminent domain and refused to pay damages to Lawrence on the grounds that it had held title to it since Helen Burke Frazier’s death. Lawrence sued for damages. The trial court granted the town’s motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no adverse possession because the town did not have notice that it owned the property and therefore Frazier’s possession was not notorious and adverse. The court of appeals affirmed, finding there was ample evidence that Frazier’s possession was not adverse. Lawrence then appealed to the state supreme court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Spina, J.)

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