In November 1993, David, a third-year business student, inherited a 60-acre farm in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly after finishing his final exams, David went out to look at his property. When he got there, he found a small farmhouse and barn on the property. It looked as though no one had lived there for a number of years. Instead of doing anything with the property, David decided keep the empty land for investment purposes. After graduation, David went to work for a financial investment firm in Texas. During January of each year, David stayed with his parents who lived in Ohio. Whenever David visited his parents in January, he would always visit his farm. During each of his visits, David noticed that the weeds seemed a little taller but that otherwise, the property seemed unchanged. In 1997, Simon and his brother Sean saw David’s farm and thought it would be a perfect place to grow marijuana. Thinking that it was unowned property, in the spring of 1997, Simon and Sean moved into the farmhouse and began to grow marijuana on 25 acres of the farm. Simon and Sean spent the summer and fall living in the farmhouse and growing marijuana there. In October, they harvested the marijuana and put it in the barn attached to the land. Then they cleaned up the house, packed up all of their belongings, except the marijuana which they stored in the barn, and moved to Florida for the winter. In March 1998, Simon and Sean returned to the farm, sold the marijuana they had grown the previous year, grew a new crop on the same 25 acres of the farm, and then moved to Florida for the winter. They repeated this routine every year from 1997- 2011. The only things they left behind each year were the marijuana crop for that year which they stored in the barn, and the cash earned from selling the marijuana, stored in the tin box on top of the cupboard in the farmhouse. In January 1998, David drove out to his farm. He looked around but did not notice the marijuana in the barn. Every January, from 1993-2004, David went out to his farm. He never saw the marijuana in the barn nor the money on top of the cupboard. The property always looked deserted. Working at the financial investment firm was tough for David. So, in June 2004, David quit his job and moved back to live with his parents in Ohio. Because David was living with his 2 parents, he felt guilty so with the assistance of his lawyer, he wrote and signed a legally valid will, designating his parents as the legal guardians and heirs of his property. In October 2010, David was declared legally insane. David never saw his farm again. In October 2011, David met and fell in love with his doctor, Dr. Mary. A week after they met, on October 8, 2011, David said to Mary, “I give you all of my property in Columbus, Ohio.” Mary just smiled since she had already heard about David’s property through her husband who was a real estate broker working in Columbus, Ohio. Two weeks later, David was hit by a car and died. In November 2011, Mary drove out to look over David’s property, which she now considered her property since he gave it to her on October 8, 2011. Although she did not notice the marijuana in the barn, she found $300,000 in cash in a tin box on top of the cupboard in the farmhouse. Mary spoke with her husband Jerry, the real estate broker, who suggested that they use the money to move into the farm and make renovations since the property was already worth $1 million dollars. In March 2012, Simon and Sean returned to the farm and found Mary and Jerry living there. Simon and Sean filed a lawsuit to eject Mary from the farm and recover the $300,000 they had stored in the farmhouse. On behalf of David’s parents, who were named as the legal owners of David’s property in his will, the executor of David’s estate filed a lawsuit to claim title to the farm and the cash.
Note – Ohio has three laws:
1) Ohio statute regarding adverse possession requires a mandatory continuous period of five years.
2) Ohio law states that “a lawsuit to recover title to or possession of real property must be brought within 10 years after the cause of action occurs. But if the person entitled to bring the lawsuit is a minor or legally insane at the time that he/she may bring the lawsuit, another person may bring the action on behalf of that person within three years after the death of such person, even if the 10-year period has lapsed.
3) It is illegal to grow and sell marijuana in Ohio.
What arguments can each party present to the court? Are there any defenses that can be claimed by each party? Who should win and why?