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Boundary Disputes, Reports and Testimony

My boundary is in dispute !

Generally, if you have a serious boundary or land use dispute with a neighbor that cannot be resolved between the parties, you will ultimately require the services of both an attorney - preferably one who specializes in boundary and land use law - and those of a licensed land surveyor. Neither professional can force anyone (client or neighbor) to accept an opinion of the boundary. Ultimately, a dispute can be settled only by agreement between the parties or by a decision of the court. In the event of litigation, the roles of the attorney and surveyor are distinct, albeit with some overlap. At the most fundamental, the role of the attorney is as your advocate, and the role of the surveyor is as a finder of fact(s), and the source of an expert opinion based on the analysis and evaluation of the facts. Sometimes the facts are simply such that multiple interpretations, all valid, can be made. In these cases, the surveyor must try to weigh the available evidence to determine the strengths of the various arguments. The goal of CMLS is always to try and present the facts and conclusions in such a manner as to facilitate agreement between parties prior to litigation, or at least prior to trial. 

This is an area of specialty for Cardigan Mountain Land Surveys.

► Surveyors Report: 

The recommended first step in a dispute situation is to have a Surveyors Report prepared. This does not have to be done in conjunction with a standard boundary survey, although it often is, depending upon the nature of the dispute and the available documents. If not, the preparation of a survey may be a recomendation in the report's conclusions, or may be required later in the litigation process. The report is essentially a written opinion based on research and review of documents such as deeds, existing surveys (which are sometimes the source of the dispute!), town records, probate records and on-site observations of evidence pertaining to the subject boundary or property. Sometimes other souces of information such as aerial photographs, historical pictures, personal accounts or writings can be important in drawing conclusions.

Often a preliminary review of information and report will be made simply to evaluate the strength and/or validity of the client's claim, and if indicated, a more complete report will then be completed.  The report  will generally contain detailed supporting information, sketches, diagrams and document copies. If a dispute goes to litigation they will usually be entered as an "exhibit" in the proceedings. A standard boundary survey may or may not be required, but it is almost always recommended that some type of "exhibit" plan is prepared to graphically and spatially portray important facts. These plans can incorporate photographs, representation of deed descriptions, "overlays" of various levels of information - often sequential, or time-based - and detailed notes as well as more conventional survey data. Preparation of a good exhibit plan is probably more an art than a science, and it can be absolutely crucial to the outcome of litigation. It truly is a case where a picture can indeed be worth a thousand words. 

► Expert Testimony: 

In the event that a dispute does go to trial, the expert testimony of a licensed land surveyor can be a very critical aspect of the case. The surveyor needs to have been thorough in their research and completely understand and grasp the legal concepts relevent to the dispute, and be prepared to defend their conclusions. They need to be well spoken, confident, calm and professional. Their role is often as much educating the parties - including the judge - as anything else. Scott Sanborn, the principal of Cardigan Mountain Land Surveys has provided expert testimony since 2000 on cases varying from multiple claims to 60 acres of woodland, public and private right-of-way locations and access rights, adverse possession claims and more.

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