What happens when two surveyors disagree about a boundary line? That question was answered in Bloxham v. Saldinger, (6th Dist. 2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 729, which is a property line dispute case concerning Santa Cruz Mountains property near Soquel Creek in which the court of appeal affirmed a trial court decision that found one of two recent surveys of a 1858 boundary line was more credible. The underlying facts are pretty interesting: The issue at trial was the location of the original 7-mile long western boundary of the “Soquel Augmentation Rancho.”
California became part of the United States pursuant to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), which ended the Mexican–American War (1846–48), which resulted in the creation of the Rio Grande boundary in Texas, and which gave the U.S. ownership of California, and a large area comprising New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. In 1851, Congress passed a law requiring persons claiming right or title in lands formerly owned by the Spanish or Mexican governments to present their claims to the United States. The Soquel Augmentation Rancho was surveyed in 1858 by the federal Surveyor General pursuant to the 1951 Act, after which the federal General Land Office issued a “patent” confirming ownership.
The golden rule of surveying is to follow the footprints of the original surveyor. Other general rules are that monuments placed in connection of the original survey control over courses, distances, lines and angels, and that the beginning corner of a survey does not control more than any other corner that is “actually well ascertained.” The survey problem in this case was that there no longer existed any corner monuments. The competing surveyors had to piece together the most likely location of the original line from the original surveyor’s 1858 field notes, from subsequent and adjacent surveys and field notes, and from natural landmarks. One of the surveyors based his analysis, in part, on two particular Redwood tree stumps, as the 1858 field notes described two, 3-foot diameter Redwood trees located along the line. Thus, an issue was whether that surveyor was adequately qualified, as a matter of law, to base his survey analysis on his own opinion about what size those tree stumps were in 1858. The court held that the surveyor was qualified enough, and affirmed the trial court’s verdict that his survey analysis was more persuasive.
©2014 Miles J. Dolinger. This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.
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