Lilly v. Lynch – Case Brief Summary (Washington)

Lilly v. Lynch, 88 Wn. App. 306, 945 P.2d 727 (Wash. Ct. App. 1997) involved a dispute between adjoining landowners over ownership of a boat ramp that straddled the property line. Id. at 729.

The Lilly court reviewed earlier Washington cases, including Frolund v. Frankland, 71 Wn.2d 812, 431 P.2d 188 (Wash. 1967), overruled on other grounds by Chaplin v. Sanders, 100 Wn.2d 853, 676 P.2d 431 (Wash. 1984).

In Frolund, another factually similar case, the Washington Supreme Court said:

"The evidence reveals that the children of the parties, as well as those of other neighbors, played about and over the various neighborhood beach areas with no more than the usual parental approval and restraint, and that the parties themselves occasionally, socially, and casually visited back and forth, and sometimes assisted one another in the performance of various work projects, e.g., beaching the swimming raft for winter storage. Such conduct, under the circumstances, denotes neighborliness and friendship. It does not amount to a subordination of defendants' adverse claim to the disputed wedge . . . ." Lilly, 945 P.2d at 732 (quoting Frolund, 431 P.2d at 192; Lilly's emphasis omitted).

As to the case before it, the Lilly Court recognized that "uncontroverted evidence shows that the title owner of the disputed area regularly used the ramp . . . ." Lilly, 945 P.2d at 733.

But, the court concluded that this usage did not interrupt the adverse claimant's possession, reasoning that "it is likely a true owner would have allowed a friendly neighbor to use the ramp regularly without asking permission each and every time.

As in Frolund, it is possible that this was the kind of use commonly allowed in the area, 'a neighborly accommodation' rather than 'shared occupancy.'" Id.