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Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz

Court of Appeals of New York
106 N.E.2d 28 (1952)



The Lutz family (defendant) bought Lots 14 and 15 in Yonkers in 1912. Between then and 1947, they accessed their property by cutting across Lots 19-22 (collectively, Lot 19). Over time, Lutz built a structure and started a gardening business on Lot 19, which he knew that he did not own. In 1947, the Van Valkenburgh family, with whom the Lutzes did not get along, purchased Lots 19-22 and demanded that Lutz remove his structures and garden from Lot 19. Lutz agreed to do so, but claimed that his family should be permitted continuing use of the path through Lot 19 to access his property. He then removed some of the structures from the land. Van Valkenburgh erected a fence blocking the path that Lutz had claimed a right to use. Lutz sued Van Valkenburgh, arguing that while Van Valkenburgh owned the land, he (Lutz) had established a right of way through it. The court ruled in Lutz’s favor, holding that Lutz had the right to use the path. The court of appeals affirmed. Van Valkenburgh later sued Lutz, complaining that the remainder of Lutz’s structures (a garage and a shed) infringed upon his land. Lutz generally denied the allegations, and additionally filed a counterclaim asserting that he owned the land claimed by Van Valkenburgh by virtue of having adversely possessed it for more than thirty years. The trial judge agreed with Lutz and held that Lutz had acquired title to the land by adverse possession. The intermediate appeals court affirmed, and Van Valkenburgh appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Dye, J.)

Dissent (Fuld, J.)

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Questions & Answers

Why did the court think the shed wasnt considered an improvement?

I believe the court said that Lutz testified that he knew the shed was being built on land that WAS NOT his, not that he thought it was. In him saying he thought it was not his land, wouldn't this fit under the aggressive trespasser doctrine of hostile claim of title and thus fulfill the requirement of hostility for AP?

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