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Zeisler Corp. v. Page

Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Jun 2, 1964
128 N.W.2d 414 (Wis. 1964)


April 29, 1964 —

June 2, 1964.

APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for La Crosse county: LEONARD F. RORAFF, County Judge of La Crosse county, Presiding. Affirmed.

For the appellant there were briefs by Hale, Skemp, Hanson, Schnurrer Skemp of La Crosse, and oral argument by T. H. Skemp.

For the respondent there was a brief and oral argument by William J. Sauer of La Crosse.

The plaintiff brought this action to quiet title in certain real estate located in the city of La Crosse. The disputed area is referred to in the plaintiff's complaint as the "accretion area." One of the streets involved is Gillette street, which at times in the record is spelled "Gillette." The trial court gave judgment for the plaintiff and found that it was the owner of the following disputed area as described in the complaint:

"Block Nineteen (19) of Northern Addition to the Village of North La Crosse, now part of the City of La Crosse, except railroad lands, together with the attached accretion area inuring thereto, the East line of which accretion area is the West line of said Block Nineteen (19), the North line of which is 92 feet [corrected to 119.89 feet] South of and parallel to Gillette Street extended West, the South line of which is the centerline of Iron Street extended West, and the West line of which is the centerline of the Black River, subject to navigation rights of the public in the Black River, and subject to highway rights in the North Half (N 1/2) of Iron Street extended West; such accretion area lying in the Northeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter (NE 1/4 of SE 1/4) of Section 19, and the Northwest Quarter of the Southwest Quarter (NW 1/4 of SW 1/4) of Section 20, Township 16 North, Range 7 West."

The Black river is a navigable river, and the area in dispute was once part of the bed of the Black river. Evidence was introduced at the trial relative to numerous surveys made of the area beginning in 1845. The trial court was of the view that the evidence did not firmly establish the shoreline of the Black river in 1928.

The trial court found in part as follows:

"1. That plaintiff is the record title owner of the following described real estate located in La Crosse County:

"`Block Nineteen (19) of Northern Addition to the Village of North La Crosse, now part of the City of La Crosse, except railroad lands.'

which title originated by deed dated August 1, 1927, and recorded in 158 Deeds 26, on August 6, 1927, which land is platted over Government Lot 2 in Section 20, Township 16 North, Range 7 West.

"2. That defendant is the record title owner of the following described real estate located in La Crosse County:

"`All that part of Fractional Lot 2 in Section 19, Township 16, Range 7 West, which is South of the centerline of Gillette Street extended to the West line of said Lot 2, Black River being the Westerly and Southerly boundary of said lot.'

which title originated by deed dated March 19, 1928. and recorded March 28, 1928, in 159 Deeds 23, which Government Lot 2 in part of Section 19, Township 16 North, Range 7 West.

"3. That plaintiff's and defendant's lands are separated by the section line between Sections 19 and 20. That when such two Government Lots were laid out by the United States Land Survey they were bounded on the Westerly and Southwesterly sides by the Black River, which river at such time flowed passed [sic] the lands of plaintiff and defendant in a Southwesterly direction and crossed the Section line at a point 11.17 chains south of the quarter line, which point of crossing according to the United States Government Survey formed the most southerly point of what is now defendant's part of Lot 2 in Section 19. (Exhibit 8 and inset map on Exhibit 8, which by reference are made part of these findings.)

"4. That Gillette Street and the easterly extension thereof runs east-west and the south line forms the northerly boundary of plaintiff's and defendant's lands. That Iron Street and the easterly extension thereof runs east-west and south and parallel to Gillette Street and the north line forms the Southerly boundary of plaintiff's land and of the Disputed Area. The most southerly point of Defendant's part of Government Lot 2, given as 11.17 chains south of the quarter line on Exhibit 8, converted into feet in relation to Gillette Street is 119.89 feet South of the South line of Gillette Street, erroneously shown as 92 feet on Exhibit 1, which exhibit by reference is made part of these findings."

One of the defendant's claims is that she has adverse possession under color of title. This is based on the language of the 1928 deed as recited in paragraph 2 of the trial court's findings, quoted above. This contention was rejected by the trial court since the defendant's property would thus extend an indefinite distance south along the Black river, which runs now in a generally north and south direction in this area. Such an interpretation of the defendant's deed would be in conflict with the grant under which the plaintiff holds record title. The defendant's claim under color of title applied only to the land as described in the 1928 deed, and the trial court was of the view that such land did not involve the disputed area.

The defendant also claims adverse possession for twenty years or more and bases this primarily on the fact that she and her predecessors in interest were the ones who were largely responsible for the filling of the disputed area. The land in question was created by the placing of extensive fill upon what was once the bed of the Black river. The defendant also relies on certain other events which she contends established her adverse possession; these will be recited in the opinion.

Although the disputed area was actually a part of the bed of the Black river before the fill, it was not at all times under water; it was capable of supporting vegetation in places.

The trial court was of the view that the mere filling in, without more, of such land to which the plaintiff held qualified title as a riparian did not constitute adverse possession. The trial court also considered whether there was any other evidence to establish adverse possession and concluded in the negative.

The defendant appeals from the judgment entered June 21, 1963, which quieted title in the plaintiff to that part of the disputed area extending south of a line 119.89 feet south of the south line of Gillett street.

Two other issues are raised by the parties. The defendant made a motion on July 25, 1963, for a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence. This motion was denied by the trial court in an order entered August 6, 1963. The defendant appealed only from the judgment, and the plaintiff contends on this appeal that the order of August 6, 1963, entered after judgment is not properly before this court for review, since the defendant did not include such order in her notice of appeal.

By its order of August 6, 1963, the trial court also denied a motion by the plaintiff for the allowance of $100 additional costs, which represented a charge by two surveyors for expert witness fees and a survey. The attorney for the plaintiff stated that this amount was inadvertently omitted by him at the time costs were settled because the surveyors had not submitted their bill at that time. By notice of review, the plaintiff seeks a review of the trial court's denial of this motion of the plaintiff.

As a defense to this action to quiet title, the defendant attempted to show that she was the owner of at least a portion of the disputed property under a deed of conveyance. She also defended on the ground that she held that same portion of the property under color of title for ten years or more within the meaning of secs. 330.06 and 330.07, Stats. Further, she urged that she was entitled to the property by reason of her adverse possession for twenty years or more within the meaning of secs. 330.08 and 330.09.

We find no difficulty in supporting the trial judge's interpretation of the defendant's deed as failing to give her record title to the disputed area. The defendant holds title to certain lands in the vicinity of the "accretion area," and she disputes the trial court's finding which established the southern boundary of the defendant's property as 119.89 feet south of the south line of Gillett street. Upon the evidence before the trial court, we deem the southern boundary to have been properly determined. Such determination is consistent with the two deeds under which the parties claim record title.

Because of the ambiguity in the defendant's deed, it is arguable that the defendant was justified in attempting to come within secs. 330.06 and 330.07, Stats., so as to claim a holding under color of title for ten years or more. However, in any event, the real thrust of the defendant's claim rests upon purported adverse possession whether the period involved is ten or twenty years.

The disputed area was created primarily through fill having been deposited there from approximately 1928 until 1957. Mrs. Page's husband had been in the contracting business, and he had deposited considerable fill in the "accretion area." The Pages had also invited others to make deposits of fill there.

The defendant urges that her use of such filled-in area qualified as adverse possession. There was testimony to the effect that the defendant cultivated the area by pulling weeds and cutting willows for firewood. She also caused it to be used as a playground for children. On the riverbank Mrs. Page established a dock, which the trial judge observed was merely a wooden structure floating on barrels. For a time a garden was maintained there by the defendant. Although they were not in existence at the time of the trial, it was contended by the defendant that several buildings had been erected or moved onto the land in question, and at times from 1928 these dwellings were rented to various tenants.

There was evidence that the plaintiff's lessee, who operated a supper club on the plaintiff's property, entered into a rental agreement with the defendant which entitled said lessee to traverse the disputed area in order to have access to the waterfront. In addition, certain receipts for property taxes paid by the defendant were placed into evidence. This, too, is urged as proof of her adverse possession.

The defendant further supports her contention that she had gained adverse possession of this property by pointing out that when the city of La Crosse desired to dredge the Black river for the purpose of establishing a municipal bathing beach in 1946 and the city realized that the construction would cause sand to spill over onto the disputed area, the city secured the consent of the defendant's mother for such intrusion.

The contention is also made that Mr. Zeisler, on behalf of the plaintiff, wrote a letter which conceded the defendant's title to the disputed land. Mrs. Page stresses the fact that the letter contained the following sentence:

"One of the stockholders of the Zeisler Corp. suggested that we sell the west one hundred feet of our land between Gillette and Iron Streets which is east of your land."

The trial court carefully reviewed the foregoing evidence and concluded that it did not establish adverse possession. With reference to the dumping, the court concluded that the public in general regarded it as a dumping ground and that the defendant's use was not exclusive. Although there were taxes paid by Mrs. Page, buildings erected by her and property rented out by her, the trial court was not convinced that these incidents actually related to the disputed property. He also found vagueness and indefiniteness with respect to the maintenance of the garden and the other physical uses which the defendant claims to have made of the property.

In summary, the trial court concluded that such use as the defendant made of the property was neither precise, continuous, nor significant. See Seybold v. Burke (1961), 14 Wis.2d 397, 404, 406, 111 N.W.2d 143; Litel v. First Nat. Bank of Oregon (1928), 196 Wis. 625, 632, 220 N.W. 651. It also concluded that the letter written by Mr. Zeisler did not constitute an admission that the defendant owned the area in question. There is no contention that the area in question was inclosed so as to come within sec. 330.09 (1), Stats.

Our conclusion is that the trial court's determination was not against the great weight and clear preponderance of the evidence. It was the burden of the defendant to establish the claim of adverse possession on the part of herself or her privies, and we affirm the trial court's conclusion that she failed to do so. In Illinois Steel Co. v. Budzisz (1900), 106 Wis. 499, 514, 81 N.W. 1027, 82 N.W. 534, we said:

"Adverse possession should be strictly construed, all reasonable presumptions being made in favor of the true owner, including the presumption that actual possession is subordinate to the right of such owner."

In Stone Bank Improvement Co. v. Vollriede (1960), 11 Wis.2d 440, 447, 105 N.W.2d 789, this court recognized the oft-repeated rule that "adverse possession is not to be made out by inference, but by clear and positive proof." The sporadic occurrences shown by the defendant in the case at bar do not establish the exclusive possession which is one of the important factors in determining adverse possession. Burkhardt v. Smith (1962), 17 Wis.2d 132, 137, 115 N.W.2d 540.

Doubt is also cast upon the propriety of the defendant's contention as to adverse possession by reason of the fact that the disputed area was built upon the bed of a navigable river. Under sec. 30.12(1) (a), Stats., it is unlawful to deposit any material on the bed of a navigable river without having a permit granted by the public service commission. The defendant and her predecessors did not receive any such permit. The Black river is a navigable stream as defined by sec. 30.10(2), and it would appear that the defendant did not have a legal right to deposit fill without permission of the state.

The appeal was taken from the judgment and only therefrom. After the judgment there was a motion by the defendant for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, but no appeal was taken from the order which disposed of such motion. An appeal from a judgment does not bring before this court for review any order entered subsequent to the judgment. Schlichting v. Schlichting (1961), 15 Wis.2d 147, 160, 112 N.W.2d 149. The plaintiff made an appropriate objection and thus did not waive its objection by participating in a review of this issue on its merits. Cf. Estate of Burns (1964), 23 Wis.2d 175, 179, 127 N.W.2d 239. Accordingly, the merits of the order denying the motion of the defendant for a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence will not be reviewed by this court.

The plaintiff seeks to have the judgment modified by an allowance of additional costs. The plaintiff neglected to incorporate as an item of costs in the judgment a bill of $100 from two surveyors. The trial court declined to modify the judgment, and we consider that in accordance with sec. 269.46(1), Stats., it was within the trial court's discretion whether to grant or deny such motion to amend the judgment because of counsel's neglect. The trial court's conclusion in this matter should not be disturbed.

By the Court. — Judgment affirmed.

Summaries of

Zeisler Corp. v. Page

Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Jun 2, 1964
128 N.W.2d 414 (Wis. 1964)
Case details for

Zeisler Corp. v. Page

Case Details

Full title:ZEISLER CORPORATION, Respondent, v. PAGE, Appellant

Court:Supreme Court of Wisconsin

Date published: Jun 2, 1964


128 N.W.2d 414 (Wis. 1964)
128 N.W.2d 414

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