Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Northern Division
from the Circuit Court of Marion County Hon. Rachel Bringer
VAN AMBURG, JUDGE
and Marsha Little appeal the trial court's judgment
quieting title to a 17-acre parcel of land in favor of Roger
and Nancy Nunn Tiemann by adverse possession. We affirm.
the highly fact-specific nature of adverse possession cases,
a thorough recitation of the evidence before the trial court
is warranted. The parcel of land in question (the Property)
is located on the northern edge of Marion County adjacent to
Lewis County. The county line draws the northern border. The
Fabius River forms a U shape tracing the borders to the west,
south, and east. Most of the Property is wooded, except for
4.59 acres of farm land forming a semi-circle at the top
center of the U. That semi-circle is the southern tip of a
much larger field expanding north across the county line into
Lewis County and consisting of 133 acres owned and farmed by
the Nunn family. The only vehicular access to the Property is
a narrow private gravel road on the Nunn farm.
the parties here are related by blood or marriage. The family
tree begins with Nancy's great-grandfather, Marion L.
"Tude" Nunn, who divided and conveyed three parcels
of land to three of his six children. The 133 acres of
farmland in Lewis County went to Nancy's grandfather,
James Wilbur Nunn, and eventually to Nancy and her first
cousins (Wilbur's grandchildren). Another parcel
including the Property went to Mary Ann Nunn Lindstrom.
Lindstrom died in 1985, leaving that parcel to her closest
living heirs, namely her daughter Rosella Kolthoff and her
other daughter's grandson, William Jones. Kolthoff sold other parts of her parcel to
different buyers who were not interested in acquiring the
Property. Jones deeded his interest in the Property to
Kolthoff in 1989, making her the sole owner of the Property.
Kolthoff paid taxes on the Property but never used or visited
it. Kolthoff sold the Property to the appellant Littles in
however, Nancy's husband, Roger, had been farming the
Property as part of the larger Nunn field for decades, until
he learned of the Littles' claim of ownership. In 2012,
the Tiemanns filed a petition to quiet title of the Property
by adverse possession. The Littles
defended the action and filed a counterclaim seeking an
easement of necessity on the Nunn farm to access the
Property. The parties appeared before the trial court in
testified that he started farming the Nunn land (the entire
field comprised of 133 acres in Lewis County plus the 4.59
acres in Marion County) with Nancy's father, James Nunn
(Wilbur's son), in 1965 after he and Nancy married. Roger
explained that the 4.59-acre section in Marion county
"was never separated out" from the larger Nunn
field in Lewis County. "It was planted as one
field." Counsel adduced records of the Farm Service
Administration (FSA) dated 1989 and 2009 naming Roger as
operator of the Nunn farm, including the 4.59 acres in Marion
County. The Tiemanns shared crop revenue with the Nunn
family. No one else ever farmed the land throughout that
time, and Roger assumed that his annual tax bill for Marion
County included the Property. Roger and the Nunns built and
regularly maintained a levy on the Property to protect the
field. Roger occasionally granted permission for third
parties to hunt on the Property.
Harold Wiseman and Merlin Eisenberg testified that Roger was
the only person to work on the Property and to grant others
permission to use it for hunting and passage via the levy.
testified to clarify the family tree, in part referring to a
genealogical article written by a family member from the
Wiseman branch in 1975 listing the names, lands, and other
particulars of various descendants of Tude Nunn. Rosella
Kolthoff was Nancy's great-aunt, so Kolthoff's
daughter, Sandy Lillard, one of the defendant-appellants
here, is Nancy's second cousin. Though reluctant to
answer, Nancy confirmed that the Tiemanns and Lillards
attended the same family Christmas gatherings "until
about 20 years ago."
testified on behalf of the Littles,  revealing another connection in the family
tree, namely that Sandy's sister-in-law (her
husband's sister) is married to Roger's brother.
Sandy also testified that her mother obtained a survey of the
Property in 1986 (after Lindstrom's death). And tax
records were adduced showing that Kolthoff paid taxes on the
Property annually from 1987 ($18.95) to 2008 ($29.58). On
cross-examination, Sandy conceded that Kolthoff never visited
or farmed the Property while she owned it and never mentioned
anything about the Tiemanns farming it.
Redman, a title agent, testified that she conducted a title
search for the Littles before they purchased the Property
from Kolthoff. She stated that Mark Twain Title Company
"found a good chain of title down to Rosella
Kolthoff" and she was unaware of any adverse claim.
appellant Randy Little testified that he was a real estate
broker and appraiser with 22 years' experience, he owned
other farms and commercial properties, and he purchased the
Property "site unseen." He further testified that
he was familiar with FSA procedures and, before the purchase,
both Kolthoff and an FSA representative told Little that
Roger had permission to farm the Property. Little "knew
that there was no access … that it was landlocked,
" which precluded him from obtaining title insurance. He
explained, "I'm not there but twice a year and
… I would like to get an easement to it because
it's landlocked. I'd like to be able to use it."
the close of the evidence, the trial court accepted
additional briefing on the specific standards for adverse
possession as applied to unoccupied wooded lands and as
between family members. Ultimately, the court found that the
Tiemanns acquired the Property by adverse possession.
Accordingly, the court quieted title in the Tiemanns'
favor, rendering moot the Littles' counterclaim. The
Littles appeal and assert that the evidence was insufficient