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Crum v. Siems

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

April 17, 2019

John E. CRUM and Jane Crum, Appellants
Richard Paul SIEMS and Dorothy Siems, Appellees

Page 613


         Taylor & Taylor Law Firm, P.A., Little Rock, by: Andrew M. Taylor and Tasha C. Taylor, for appellants.

         PPGMR Law, PLLC, by: R. Scott Morgan Pine Bluff, and Micah L. Goodwin, Little Rock, for appellees.


         MIKE MURPHY, Judge

Page 614

          Appellants John Crum and his wife, Jane, appeal from the Arkansas County Circuit Court’s order resolving a land dispute between the Crums and appellees Dorothy Siems and her son Richard Siems.[1] The Crums and the Siemses own adjacent land; the Crums’ eastern boundary and the Siemses’ western boundary were in dispute. After the Crums installed an irrigation system that the Siemses thought encroached on their land, the Siemses filed a complaint seeking to enjoin the Crums from trespassing on their land; for quiet title; for restoration of the land to its proper state; for judgment compensating the Siemses for the loss of the use of their property; for the costs of surveying the property and relocating survey markers; and for civil and punitive damages. The Crums answered and counterclaimed, asserting that the line between their properties had been established by acquiescence or agreement, or alternatively by adverse possession. After a bench trial, the circuit court ruled in favor of the Siemses and denied all claims of boundary by acquiescence, boundary by agreement, and adverse possession. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         The Crums filed a timely notice of appeal, raising the following points: (1) the circuit court erred in not finding that the line of trees and the eastern edge of the turn-row established a boundary by acquiescence,[2] and (2) the circuit court erred in its alternative finding that the Crums did not acquire title to the property through adverse possession.

          Boundary-line cases are reviewed de novo. Durham v. McCone, 2018 Ark.App. 392, at 3, 555 S.W.3d 907, 909. However, our court will not reverse findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. Id. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, we are left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id. Because the location of a boundary is a disputed question of fact, we will affirm the circuit court’s finding unless it is clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Id. In reviewing a circuit court’s findings of fact, we give due deference to the circuit court’s superior position to determine the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be accorded their testimony. Id.

          Using these standards, we examine the facts presented to the circuit court. The parties have disputed this property line since 1974, but the first notable argument occurred in 1981 when the Siemses alleged that John Crum was bulldozing a line of trees between the parties’ properties. The Siemses explained that they confronted John, and he abstained from further work along the tree line. John denied that this confrontation occurred or that he bulldozed the trees at all. Instead, he testified that there was a meeting in 1981 that resulted in the parties orally agreeing on a boundary line. According to John, the parties agreed that the line would be the tree line as extended to the north and south and that the agreement was memorialized

Page 615

by steel posts driven on the north and south ends of the line by the late Edward Siems[3] and a steel rod driven into the ground by John on the north end next to the post Edward set.

          The Siemses deny that there was any agreement in 1981. To support their position, they introduced a handwritten document by Edward Siems that memorialized an agreement in October 1988. This document was not signed by John. John denies that there was ever an agreement in 1988.

          After years of conflict, in 2013, the Siemses had Delta Survey Company perform a survey of the property line. The surveyor did not find the posts that John testified were placed by Edward Siems in 1981 to evidence the agreement; nor did he find the steel rod John allegedly placed. However, after having been asked by John to return, and with a ...

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