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KAMILCHE CO. v. UNITED STATES

December 28, 1992

KAMILCHE COMPANY and SIMPSON REDWOOD COMPANY, corporations, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES A. LEGGE

 I.

 Plaintiff *fn1" brings this action for a refund of federal income taxes. The claim for refund arises from a charitable contribution deduction which plaintiff claimed on its 1987 income tax return. The charitable contribution was for plaintiff's alleged donation of real property to the State of California in 1987. Defendant denied the charitable deduction, primarily on the basis that plaintiff did not own the real property that plaintiff purported to donate.

 II.

 The parties made cross motions for full or partial summary judgment. The parties then agreed that the issues on the cross motions could be resolved as a court trial. That is, the record and the briefs were augmented, and the issues were then submitted to this court as in a non-jury trial. That procedure enables this court to resolve the factual disputes, rather than to decide only those issues that are without a genuine issue of material fact as required by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties' records and briefs were augmented, argued, and submitted for decision.

 The court has reviewed the record, the evidence, the briefs and arguments of the parties and the applicable authorities, and the court now orders judgment in favor of defendant the United States. This Opinion and Order constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law required by Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The facts stated in this Opinion and Order are found to be facts by a measure of a preponderance of the evidence.

 III.

 The dispute concerns the boundary line between the State of California's Prairie Creek State Park and land owned by plaintiff, in township 12 north, range 1 east, H.B. & M. The boundary line between those properties runs through the township, in a generally diagonal direction and stair-step shape, between northwest and southeast. The land south and west of the line has been maintained as a state park, and the land north and east of the line has been owned and logged by plaintiff.

 Two surveys of the township were done in the late 1800s, the first by Foreman and a later one by Gilcrest. The surveys were not consistent, and the inconsistencies created a potential land hiatus. Landowners in the area generally followed the more recent Gilcrest boundaries. However, property lines in the township were subject to the cloud of the inconsistent Foreman and Gilcrest surveys for many years. For example, a policy of title insurance issued to plaintiff in 1959 specifically referred to the irregularities of surveys and boundaries, and to the Gilcrest survey differing from the Foreman survey.

 In the late 1970s, the township was resurveyed by the United States Bureau of Land Management. That survey was recorded on March 10, 1981. It in essence reconfirmed the older Foreman survey, and determined that the true borders of the township were actually further to the south and west than had been established by the Gilcrest survey. The changing of the borders of the township also affected the section lines within the township, and parcel lines that were based on the township or section lines.

 For purposes of this litigation, the effect was to shift the line separating the state park and plaintiff's property to the south and west, leaving a strip of property between the newly established line and the line previously established by the Gilcrest survey. That strip of property totals approximately 158 acres. This is the property at issue here.

 In 1987 plaintiff executed a quit claim deed to the 158 acres to the State of California. Based upon that quit claim deed, plaintiff claimed a charitable contribution deduction on its 1987 income tax return, which the United States denied.

 The basic question is whether plaintiff owned this strip of land which it purported to donate to the State of California. For the reasons stated below, this court finds and concludes that the true line between the state property and plaintiff's property is the one to the south and west of the previously recognized Gilcrest line. However, the court also finds and concludes that the State of California obtained title to that piece of property by adverse possession and therefore that plaintiff did not own the property which it purported to contribute to the State of California in 1987.

 IV.

 The first issue is what is the true line between the state property and plaintiff's property. The United States contends that it is the line that had been accepted for many years, based on the Gilcrest survey, so that there is no strip of property owned by plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that as a result of the 1981 B.L.M. survey, the true line is to the south and west of the Gilcrest line, and that plaintiff owns the strip of land between the B.L.M. line and the Gilcrest line.

 This court finds and concludes that prior litigation between these parties has already established that the true line is the one which lies to the south and west, thereby creating the strip of property which plaintiff claims to own. That result is collateral estoppel against the United States in this case.

 A.

 The prior litigation was a suit in this court between the United States and plaintiff Simpson, No. C-84-2028-TEH. *fn2" In that case, the United States condemned a strip of land to construct a bypass of U.S. Highway 101. The condemned land included an area of 3.49 acres, which is within the strip of property at issue in the present case. In that action, Simpson claimed title to the 3.49 acres and moved for a summary adjudication that it owned that parcel, as well as all other land in the township taken by the United States for the highway bypass. In order to establish that position, Simpson argued that the same dividing line which is at issue in this case was the B.L.M. line. In an order of May 24, 1988 Judge Henderson found that there were no triable issues of fact as to several issues, including the determination that the "Foreman Survey of 1882 controls the location of all land within" the township. The lines of the Foreman survey are the ones which were accepted by the 1981 recorded survey by the B.L.M., and which resulted in the line south and west of the Gilcrest line. Based upon that and other findings, Judge Henderson granted summary judgment in favor of Simpson's ownership of the 3.49 acres.

 Collateral estoppel prevents a party from relitigating an issue which has already been determined. Collateral estoppel applies: (1) when an issue of fact or law was fully and actually litigated and determined, (2) by a valid final judgment, and (3) the determination was essential to that judgment. If those criteria are met, the prior determination is conclusive in subsequent litigation between the parties, whether on the same or a different claim. See Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 58 L. Ed. 2d ...


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