The Iowa Court of Appeals posts opinions regularly, and we are always on the lookout for cases of relevance to our practice and clients. Here are summaries of two recent cases that caught our attention.
Adverse Possession – Rodamaker v. Biermann, No. 16-1102
In March, the Court of Appeals issued a decision involving a claim of adverse possession. Adverse possession occurs when you occupy land to which another person has title and treat it as your own. In Iowa, in order to show adverse possession, the petitioner must establish hostile, open, exclusive, and continuous possession of the property for at least 10 years. This case dealt with adjacent properties in Clayton County. The Petitioner had a house on his property, while the property next door was unimproved. For over 30 years, the Petitioner treated a fence 20 feet north of his house as the property line, when in reality the property line was 1.5 feet north of the house. Petitioner maintained the area between the house and the fence by mowing it, keeping back trees, and planting flowers. The court strictly construes the doctrine of adverse possession, and the Petitioner must meet all the elements. Here, the Court affirmed the District Court’s ruling holding that the Petitioner has adversely possessed the land by taking steps to occupy, maintain, and improve the land for over 30 years, during which time the Defendants did not take any steps to assert their interest in the property.
Elder Abuse – Riley v. Riley, No. 15-1250
This case was an appeal of a judgment of elder abuse by a son against his Father through financial exploitation. The Father’s wife passed away in 2012, and soon thereafter he fell into a depression. He then began withdrawing large sums of money from his bank account and purchasing multiple rental real estate properties with the help of his son and daughter-in-law (the Defendants). The real estate properties were transferred into LLCs managed by the son, and the son became his Father’s power of attorney. Soon thereafter, the Defendants claim the Father transferred all his interest in the LLCs to them, while the Father claims no such transfer occurred. The Father filed a petition for relief from elder abuse, and the District Court found that he was a victim of elder abuse as a result of his age, relationship to the Defendants, and emotional turmoil following his wife’s death.
Iowa Code section 235F.1(17) provides that a “’vulnerable elder’ means a person sixty years of age or older who is unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse as a result of age or a mental or physical condition.” The Father presented no evidence his age alone made him incapable of protecting himself from elder abuse, so the court examined whether he was suffering from a mental or physical condition at the time. After reviewing the evidence, the Court held that the Father was suffering from depression at the time in which the events occurred and that the form of abuse was financial exploitation which occurs when a person stands in a position of trust or confidence with the vulnerable elder and knowingly and by undue influence, deception, coercion, fraud, or extortion, obtains control over or otherwise uses or diverts the benefits, property, resources, belongings, or assets of the vulnerable elder.