Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom
799 P.2d 304 (1990)

  • Nome 2000 was an Alaskan mining company. They owned 7.5 acres of land in rural Alaska.
  • The Fagerstroms grew up nearby. for thirty years they routinely used the land.
    • At first, they used it as the occasional campsite. However, as time went on they took greater and greater possession of the land:
      • They built structures such as an outhouse.
      • They permanently parked a trailer on the property.
      • They maintained the property.
      • They occasionally excluded others from the property.
      • Eventually, they built a cabin on the property.
  • Nine years after the cabin was built Nome 2000 sued to eject the Fagerstoms. The Fagerstroms countersued and claimed that they had acquired the land by adverse possession.
  • The Trial Court found for the Fagerstroms and awarded them the entire parcel of land. Nome 2000 appealed.
    • Nome 2000 argued that the Fagerstrom’s use of the parcel did not meet the requirements for adverse possession.
    • Nome 2000 argued that the only section of the parcel that was in dispute was the area near the Fagerstrom’s cabin, not the entire parcel.
  • The Appellate Court partially reversed and remanded for trial.
    • The Appellate Court found that the only portion of the land which the Fagerstroms had claim to was the area around their cabin.
      • The specific boundaries of the claim were to be decided by a jury.
    • The Court noted that in order to acquire title via adverse possession, Fagerstrom had to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, “that for the statutory period (10 years under Alaska law) ‘his use of the land was continuous, open and notorious, exclusive and hostile to the true owner.”
      • The four key parameters for adverse possession are continuity, notoriety, exclusivity, and hostility.
    • Nome 2000 unsuccessfully argued that as a matter of law the physical requirements are not met unless there was some “significant physical improvements” or “substantial activity” on the land.
      • However, the Court found that whether a claimant’s physical acts upon the land are sufficiently continuous, notorious and exclusive does not necessarily depend on the existence of significant improvements, substantial activity or absolute exclusivity.
      • The conditions of continuity and exclusivity require only that the land be used for the statutory period as an average owner of similar property would use it. This land was a campground, so using it as a campground was sufficient.
        • The use was continuous because no one who owned land in that area lived there year round. They used it in a continuous fashion, they didn’t have to stay there year round.
      • The Fagerstroms’ conduct and improvements went well beyond “mere casual and occasional trespasses” and instead “evinced a purpose to exercise exclusive dominion over the property.”
        • The purpose of notoriety is to give the original owner constructive notice that someone is living on the land. The cabin and other structures that the Fagerstroms’ built should have tipped Nome off that someone was living there.
      • Although the Fagerstsroms allowed other people to use the land, they still had exclusive use of it.
        • Exclusivity means exclusive of the owner, you can let other people use the land.
      • Hostility generally means that you are on the land without the permission of the owner. In a few States you have to have a hostile intent to take the land, but that’s a very subjective standard.
    • Since the Fagerstroms only made improvements to part of the property, they fail to meet the notoriety aspect on the parts of the land they didn’t make improvements to, so they don’t get that part.