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State v. Hess

Supreme Court of Minnesota
684 N.W.2d 414 (Minnesota 2004)


On April 1, 1898, Thomas B. and Harriet G. Walker and W.T. and Clotilde G. Joyce conveyed a corridor of land to the Brainer and Northern Minnesota Railway Company. The deed specified that the conveyance would be valid so long as the corridor was used “for right of way and for railway purposes,” but that the conveyance would terminate once the property was used otherwise. The land was eventually conveyed to the Burlington Northern Railway Company (BNRC). In 1985, the BNRC ceased to use the land for its railroad line. On September 13, 1991, the BNRC conveyed its land to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) (plaintiff). The DNR acquired the land in order to create the Paul Bunyan State Trail, which was made available for public use. Between 1977 and 1995, Brian and Amelia Sandberg (defendants) acquired parcels of land abutting the corridor and the trail. On December 8, 1992, Duwayne Hess (defendant) acquired property abutting the trail. Beginning in October 1998, the Sandbergs and Hess blocked off the trail where the trail met their properties. The DNR brought this action to quiet title, seeking a ruling that the DNR owned the parts of the trail blocked off by the defendants. The district court granted the DNR summary judgment. It ruled that the 1898 deed conveyed a fee simple determinable with a limitation as to use of the land. It further found that the Marketable Title Act extinguished all limitations not asserted within 40 years and therefore concluded the DNR owned the property in fee simple. The court of appeals reversed, finding that the 1898 deed granted an easement and thus concluded that the defendants owned the land.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Nehring, J.)

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