Fletcher v. Fuller,
120 U.S. 534 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Fletcher v. Fuller, 120 U.S. 534 (1887)

Fletcher v. Fuller

Argued January 18-19, 1887

Decided March 7, 1887

120 U.S. 534


Defendants in ejectment having produced a regular chain of title under a deed from a grandson of the original owner of a lot in Rhode Island, including the land in controversy, which was executed in 1768 and recorded soon afterwards in the land records of the town in which it was situated, and having shown that the ancestors in title paid the taxes on said lot for twenty years preceding 1805, and that afterward, up to the trial of the action in 1882, a period of seventy-seven years, they or their ancestors in title had uninterruptedly paid the taxes on the lot, and having shown an entry in 1835 by their ancestor upon the lot under a deed for the purpose of quarrying a ledge of rock running through it, and the quarrying of the ledge with occasional intervals from 1846 to the commencement of this action in 1874, a period of twenty-eight years, the said entry being made with claim of title to the whole lot. Held, in an action brought by the heirs of the devisee of the original proprietor, under a will executed in 1749, and probated in 1756, none of whom had made any claim to the premises for three-quarters of a century after the death of the original proprietor, under whose will they now assert title, nor paid taxes on that property, nor after that time ever taken possession of the premises or paid taxes upon them, that the jury might presume a deed to the grandson from the original proprietor, or from his devisee, to quiet the possession of the defendants claiming under such grandson, and that in making such presumption, the jury were not to be restricted to consideration of

Page 120 U. S. 535

what they fairly supposed actually occurred, but to what may have occurred, and seems requisite to quiet title in the possessors. It is sufficient that the evidence leads to the conclusion that the deed might have been executed and that its execution would be a solution of difficulties arising from its nonexecution.

Though a presumption of a deed may be rebutted by proof of facts inconsistent with its supposed existence, yet where no such facts are shown and the things done and the things omitted with regard to the property in controversy by the respective parties for long periods of time after the execution of the supposed conveyance can be explained satisfactorily only upon the hypothesis of its existence, the jury may be instructed that it is their duty to presume such a conveyance, and thus quiet the possession.

Though as a general rule it is only where the possession has been actual, open, and exclusive for the period prescribed by the statute of limitations to bar an action for the recovery of land that the presumption of a deed can be invoked, yet that presumption may properly be invoked where a proprietary right has been exercised beyond such statutory period, although the exclusive possession of the whole property, to which the right is asserted, may have been occasionally interrupted during such period if, in addition to the actual possession, there have been other open acts of ownership.

The assessment of taxes on an entire parcel of real estate to the person in possession under claim of title and to his ancestors and privies in estate for over a hundred years is powerful evidence of a claim of right to the whole lot, and, taken in connection with the exclusive working of a quarry on the estate for more than twenty years under claim of title to the whole tract, by virtue of conveyances in which it was described, may authorize a jury to infer continuous possession of the whole notwithstanding a temporary and occasional intrusion by others upon a different part of the tract which did not interfere with the work.

Ejectment for a tract of land in Rhode Island. Verdict for

plaintiff, and judgment on the verdict. Defendants sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 120 U. S. 537

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