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Linebaugh v. Gibson

Linebaugh v. Gibson, 2020 UT App 108 (Orme, J.)

Property

Two neighbors with bordering property lines disputed over relocating a wall along their border. Gibson removed a fence and erected a retaining wall two feet north, but still within his deeded property. Linebaugh sued because she had been occupying those two feet for decades. She claimed boundary by acquiescence, trespass, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The district court granted summary judgment in Gibson’s favor. Linebaugh appeals, and Gibson counter-appeals for attorney fees. The Utah Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding:

  • The district court erred when it determined that Linebaugh failed to establish all of the elements of boundary by acquiescence. 
    • The fact that a fence is built with the initial objective of containing animals instead of to mark the boundary line is not dispositive. The objective behavior of the Gibsons in doing nothing for decades to disavow the fence’s demarcation of the boundary, overcomes any subjective reason they had for building the fence at that location initially.
    • The twenty-year-period requirement was easily met. The district court found that the v-mesh fence remained in essentially the same place between 1976 and 2015. The Gibsons did not take any actions during that time that would have objectively conveyed their opposition to the fence serving as the boundary line. The fence reparations in 1996 do not disturb this.
  • Because Linebaugh established boundary by acquiescence, Gibson trespassed on Linebaugh’s property. The court reverses for a computation of damages considering diminution in the land’s value, compensation for any personal or property injury as a result of the encroachment, and any nominal or putative damages appropriate.
  • The district court correctly granted summary judgment to Gibson on Linebaugh’s claim of IIED. However, the court erred when it rested its ruling on whether Linebaugh sought and obtained additional medical care and whether her distress interfered with her work as those are not the benchmarks of IIED.
  • The district court correctly denied attorney fees. On appeal, neither sanctions nor attorney fees are granted to either party.

Read the full court opinion

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