• May 20, 2020

At a minimum in order to pass the bar and get a law license, it is possible that almost every U.S. lawyer over the past 100 years or so has had to learn the acronym “OCEAN” to remember the prerequisites for a claim for adverse possession (Open, Continuous, Exclusive, Adverse, Notorious).

The Minnesota Supreme Court has recently granted a petition for review in St. Paul Park Refining v. Domeier, an adverse possession case that might add a “T,” standing for for taxes, to the mix, at least for some cases. In Minnesota, at least, bar exam crammers might need to “buy a T” (a reference to Wheel of Fortune)? (Here is the petition. Here is the response.)

That is, in the next 12 months (more or less), it is likely that the Minnesota Supreme Court will answer the following question: pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 541.02, does a litigant who is claiming adverse possession of any more than one half of a separately-assessed tax parcel have to have paid taxes on the disputed property for five consecutive years in order to make a claim for adverse possession?

The problem is Minnesota case law providing that the “tax requirement” comes into play when “all or substantially all” of a parcel is involved. Needless to say, folks will run into problems when a legal rule includes wiggly wobbly ideas like what “substantially all” means. As if devised to hone the question to a fine point, the St. Paul Park Refinery case involves an adverse possession claim as to two adjoining partial parcels, 52.19% of one and 5.32% of the other.

It’s a bit of a stretch for Minnesota Litigator to make a prediction as to this case but we’ll predict reversal of the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision based on the simple idea that >50% but <53% hardly seems like “all or substantially all” of a parcel….