Case Caption: Decosta v. Ebbessen Case Number: SCT-CIV-2019-0095Date: 01/18/2024Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: 2024 VI 7Summary: In an action seeking title by adverse possession to a property on St. Croix, the Superior Court’s November 27, 2019 order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant/appellee is affirmed, because the plaintiffs were unable to satisfy the hostility requirement of their adverse possession claim. Pursuant 28 V.I.C. § 11, adverse possession is established by the uninterrupted, exclusive, actual, physical adverse, continuous, notorious possession of real property under claim or color of title for 15 years or more, and the party asserting adverse possession bears the burden of proving all the required elements by clear and convincing evidence. Here, the plaintiffs commenced possession of the property as permissive tenants. It is immaterial that there was never a formal written lease agreement executed between the parties because in the Virgin Islands a periodic tenancy may be created orally. There is no fixed rule or mechanical formula to determine whether possession is hostile and, generally, entry by virtue of a lease or the payment of rent bars adverse possession claims as either or both actions implicitly recognize a superior claim of another to the property. Caselaw has held that constructive notice that property is under a claim of ownership can transform a permissive tenancy to a hostile claim, and the true question following a permissive entry is whether the claimant gave the record title holder proper notice of their adverse or hostile intent. Here the plaintiffs did not present proof of unambiguous hallmarks of ownership of the property, and the evidence was not enough to establish constructive notice of the their adverse or hostile intent. Importantly, in this case the plaintiffs have consistently recognized the defendant’s superior claim of ownership to the property. The circumstances surrounding the property show that defendant was not alerted to the plaintiffs’ intention to assert ownership at any point. As a result, their adverse possession claim cannot be sustained, as they fail to meet the crucial requirement of "hostility" for establishing adverse possession. The plaintiffs have not demonstrated genuine issues of fact that warrant the reversal of the summary judgment entered by the Superior Court below. As a result, the summary judgment entered below in favor of the defendant is affirmed.Attachment: Open Document or Opinion