Linebaugh v. Gibson

July 16, 2020

Utah Court of Appeals

2020 UT App 108 (July 16, 2020)

The Utah Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s denial of a boundary by acquiescence claim that concluded the landowner could not have acquiesced to a fence as a boundary because the landowner’s intent was that the fence be built for animal containment and not as a boundary. 

In the 1950’s, the Gibsons’ predecessor erected a fence about two feet inside the deeded northern property line of the Gibson property for the purpose of confining animals. Over the years, the various landowners never discussed the boundaries. In 2015, the Gibsons intended to replace the fence with a cement retaining wall along the deeded northern property line, which was met with opposition by neighboring Linebaugh, who claimed that the property north of the existing fence was legally her property.

At trial, the district court entered summary judgment for the Gibsons, ruling that Linebaugh could not establish boundary by acquiescence, for as an essential element of the claim is mutual acquiescence in the line as a boundary, the lower court held that the Gibsons’ predecessor could not have acquiescence to the mesh fence as a boundary where the fence was not intended as a boundary, but as containment for animals.  

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the lower court misread Utah case law on the issue. A claim for boundary by acquiescence is determined by the parties’ objective actions in relation to the boundary and not their mental state. The fact that no discussions had ever taken place regarding the boundaries, combined with the Gibsons and their predecessors’ occupation up to the fence as their property, overcomes any notion that the Gibsons and predecessors could not have acquiesced to the fence solely because it was initially built to contain animals.