Some boundary dispute cases involve a little bit more than the parties’ contrary claims of adverse possession and quiet title to the recorded real property. No, sometimes the professionals can make bank by engaging in a contest in which one of them will ultimately end up the butt of the joke. [1]

That’s what happened in Thompson v. Schlittenhart. [2]

Basically, the common grantors made an original goof such that the legal descriptions which ought to have met at an adjoining line did not.

The first surveyor – hired by Thompson – did everything he could to figure the mess out but ultimately acknowledged that there was imperfect closure of the survey after examining:

the deeds of the surrounding properties, the conveyances of the Thompsons’ predecessors in interest, an unrecorded plat referred to in the Thompsons’ deed, monuments on the ground and county road maps to determine the intent of the initial common grantors.

Now, I don’t know if this surveyor charged extra for all that work. But, I suspect there is a high likelihood that this “meal” was “prix fixe” – i.e. flat fee – and so the matter became an intellectual puzzle to be solved at his honor.

At any rate, this first surveyor ultimately figured that the adjoining property line was probably along a barbed wire fence which had been in place since 1953 as opposed to the chain link fence 12 feet “inside” it which Thompsons themselves had built in 1969.

Tough schlitz to the Schlittenharts who were now pronounced not to have owned the “DMZ” between these two fences?

Heck no! On their behalf in came surveyor two … and let’s see how that worked out. To wit, surveyor two:

[E]xamined much the same information and used the same procedure as [surveyor I], but determined that the county road to the east of both properties was 60 feet wide rather than 40 feet wide and used the calls exactly as they were found in the Thompsons’ deed. … Because his survey would make the southern boundary of the Thompsons’ and Schlittenharts’ properties not a straight line, [surveyor II] did not believe that his survey reflected the intent of [the common grantors], but saw his duty as faithfully following the description in the Thompsons’ deedEmphasis added. [3]

‘What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.” [4]

Surveyor 2.0 is pejoratively called a “deed staker”. He ‘slaps down the math’ and then tells people something along the lines of: ‘Gosh, you better go get an attorney. This is a mess!’

In this matter it turned out that Thompsons decided not to wait for that to happen; they initiated suit against Schlittenharts.

So, the trial court made its determination that the first surveyor knew what he was doing and as such the Thompsons prevailed. So of course then Schlittenharts appeal.

The appellate court offered a logical series of rules for determining Grantor’s Intent.

That information makes this case extremely valuable as guidance for surveyors [and attorneys] seeking to do their jobs right when the language in the deed just doesn’t fly.

As a result, the appellate court upheld the decision that the first surveyor knew what he was doing.

The appellate court then went on to recognize the trial court’s finding that the “DMZ” between the two fences had not been used exclusively by either party. [5]

Apparently, both parties had advanced claims of adverse possession in case declaratory relief of the line didn’t play to their favor.

The upshot was that Schlittenharts hadn’t adversely possessed for failure of exclusivity and Thompsons had failed simply because “[a] person cannot adversely possess his own property.”

And then we find out one last thing: “The Schlittenharts raise several other issues on appeal which were not raised at trial. These issues will not be considered. RAP 2.5(a).” [6]

In other words, the attorney dripped needless ink all over the appellate brief in a vain attempt to fashion arguments which simply could not be reviewed.

So what should we make of all this?

IMHO, someone should put a boot in both of Schlittenharts’ hired hands’ booties!

Bottom line, don’t be a “Schlitthead” and hire an idiot surveyor and then compound matters by then hiring a stupid lawyer.

Assuming you want to do things correctly, you can start along the right trail by instead taking Justice Smiles’ Initial Assessment [HERE].

[1] See [HERE].

[2] 47 Wn.App. 209, 734 P.2d 48 (1987). See [HERE].

[3] As a not so incidental aside, isn’t it curious that the two surveyors could deviate by 20′ as to the width of a county road? Folks, is it possible that the second surveyor might have done just a tad more due diligence vis-à-vis county records so as not to place his head up a situate where the sun doesn’t shine.

[4] See [HERE].

[5] Thompsons continued to mow the grass within the “DMZ” created by the original barbed wire fence and the later built chain link fence. What the Schlittenharts did in that area is not specified in the appellate opinion.

[6] See RAP 2.5 [HERE].