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Galiher v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 14, 2017

LOUISE J. GALIHER, Trustee of the Louise J. Galiher Trust, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
DENNIS and VICKI JOHNSON, Appellees (Defendants).

         Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Marvin L. Tyler, Judge

          Representing Appellant Anna Reeves Olson, Park Street Law Office, Casper, Wyoming

          Representing Appellee Matthew E. Turner, Mullikin, Larson & Swift LLC, Jackson, Wyoming

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, Justice

         [¶1] Louise Galiher appeals from a judgment ruling that title to a portion of her property[1] had vested in her neighbor Dennis Johnson and his wife by adverse possession. We reverse and remand.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Galiher asserts that the district court erred as a matter of law in three respects: (1) in concluding that the Johnsons had established a prima facie case of adverse possession, despite their inability to show that their use of the disputed property was hostile and under a claim of right; (2) in calculating when the statute of limitations began to run to bar claims against the Johnsons' use of the property; and (3) in refusing to consider evidence that previous owners of Galiher's property were simply accommodating a neighbor when they allowed the Johnsons to park on the disputed property.

         [¶3] However, at the core of each of those assertions, as presented in both Galiher's opening and reply briefs, is a single question of law that in our view is determinative of this case:

Did the district court err when it determined it could not consider Johnson's out-of-court statements as evidence that his use of the disputed property had always been permissive?

         FACTS

         [¶4] The parties' dispute relates to Lot 21 and Lot 23 of the High Country subdivision in Teton County near the town of Jackson, Wyoming. In 1977, Johnson's wife Vicki and her former husband, Rick Hollingsworth, purchased a home situated on Lot 21. The couple divorced in 1984. Johnson met his wife in 1985 and married her the following year. In 1990, Hollingsworth conveyed his interest in the property to the Johnsons, who have continued to live there.

         [¶5] Lot 23 is directly south of Lot 21. Between 1978 and Galiher's purchase in early March of 2013, the ownership of Lot 23 had changed eight times. The following map shows the two lots and the disputed portion of Lot 23.

         (Image Omitted)

          The following photo, which was not an actual exhibit presented at trial but rather an enlarged photo of a portion of Appellant's Exhibit D-38, is an aerial view of the lots and disputed property. The ...


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