Real Estate Litigation

Boundary Line Disputes – Findings of Fact

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion. 

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

Barrios v. Simpkins, No. M2021-01347-COA-R3-CV, p. 10-11 (Tenn. Ct App. Nov. 10, 2022).

Regarding review of a boundary line dispute, this Court has previously explained:

“In resolving a boundary line dispute, it is the role of the trier of fact to evaluate all the evidence and assess the credibility of the witnesses.” Mix v. Miller, 27 S.W.3d 508, 514 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999) (citing Norman v. Hoyt, 667 S.W.2d 88, 91 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1983)). The judgment of the trial court should be affirmed, absent errors of law, unless the preponderance of the evidence is against those findings. Phillips v. Woods, No. E2007- 00697-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 836161 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 31, 2008). Due to the fact-intensive nature of boundary line disputes, the trial court is best suited to assess the credibility of the witnesses and its credibility determinations are binding on this court unless the evidence preponderates against them. Id. at *34. When the trial court makes a determination accepting one surveyor’s findings over that of another, that same deference requires this court to accept the trial court’s findings. Id.

The following rule has been adopted in Tennessee:

The construction of deed and other instruments and documents and their legal effect as to boundaries is a question of law. What boundaries the grant or deed refers to is a question of law; where those boundaries are on the face of the earth is a question of fact. If, therefore, the evidence concerning the location of the true boundary line between adjacent landowners is conflicting, that issue is one of fact unless the legal construction of the deed or grant is such that the boundary is determined as a matter of law.

12 Am. Jur. 2d Boundaries § 121 (1997) (footnotes omitted). We therefore review the trial court’s finding as to the true location of the [parties’] boundary line as a finding of fact that is entitled to the presumption of correctness. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d). Thus, we will not disturb the trial court’s judgment unless the evidence preponderates against it. Id.

Hong v. Foust, No. E2011-00138-COA-R3-CV, 2012 WL 388448, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 8, 2012); see Conder v. Salyers, 421 S.W.3d 589, 592 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013).

Garabrant v. Chambers, No. E2021-00128-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 1, 2022)

Our review of the trial court’s judgment following a non-jury proceeding is de novo upon the record with a presumption of correctness as to the trial court’s findings of fact unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. See Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Bowden v. Ward, 27 S.W.3d 913, 916 (Tenn. 2000). “In order for the evidence to preponderate against the trial court’s finding of fact, the evidence must support another finding of fact with greater convincing effect.” Wood v. Starko, 197 S.W.3d 255, 257 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006). “On appeal, considerable deference is given to the trial court’s determinations of the credibility and weight to be given to witness testimony because ‘the trial court [had] the opportunity to observe the witnesses’ demeanor and hear the in-court testimony.’” Massey v. Casals, 315 S.W.3d 788, 793-94 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009) (quoting Interstate Mech. Contractors, Inc. v. McIntosh, 229 S.W.3d 674, 678 (Tenn. 2007)). “This deferential standard specifically applies in a boundary dispute where a trial courtmust choose between two competing surveys.” Pierce v. Paschall, No. W2013-00478- COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 6858258, at *4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 30, 2013) (quoting Bridgewater v. Adamczyk, No. M2012-00697-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 485679, at *9 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 6, 2013)).


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