This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
Effect as vesting and divesting title.
Landlord and tenant.
Trustee and cestui que trust.
Licensor and licensee.
Principal and agent.
Grantor and grantee.
Vendor and vendee.
Life tenant and remainderman.
Mortgagor and mortgagee.
Mortgagor and foreclosure purchaser.
Surviving spouse and heirs.
Parent and child.
Husband and wife.
There were, even. in early times, numerous statutes adopted in England limiting the time within which an action could be brought on account of a disseisin of land, but these differed from the statutes of the present day in that, instead of naming a certain number of years before the institution of the action beyond which no disseisin could be alleged, they named a certain year back of which the pleader could
2 R. P. - 46 not go.1 The last statute which adopted this method of fixing the period of limitation was St. Westminster I. e. 39,2 which forbade the seisin of an ancestor to be alleged in a writ of right prior to the beginning of the reign of Richard I. (A. P. 1189), and for other writs fixed the year 1217. Thus, under this statute, at the time of its passage, the period of limitation for some writs was fifty-eight years, and this period was lengthened, as time went on without any change in the law, so that it exceeded three hundred years when, by 32 Hen. VIII. c. 2,3 a change was made, and the modern method was adopted of fixing a certain number of years within which the action must be brought. This last statute, however, applied only to the old real actions, and. the action of ejectment having to a great extent taken their place, St. 21 Jac. I. c. 16, 4 was passed, which provided that no person should thereafter make any entry into any lands, tenements, or hereditaments but within twenty years next after his or their right or title shall have accrued. This statute, while not in terms applying to the action of ejectment, did so in effect by barring the right of entry on which the action depended.
In this country the statutes of the different states, as regards the limitation of actions to recover land, exhibit very considerable diversity. but the courts, in applying them, have recognized certain general principles as governing the subject, with but little regard, for the most part, to the language of the particular statute.
The period of twenty years, named in the statute of James, has been adopted in the legislation of a number
1. Thus the earliest date at which the seisin of an ancestor could be alleged in a writ of right was the beginning of the reign of Henry 1. (A. D. 1100) until this was changed by the Statute of Merton to the beginning of the reign of Henry II. (A. D. 11541. Other dates were fixed for other writs. See 2
Pollock & Maitland. Hist. Eng. Law. 51, 81, 141.
2. 3 Edw. I. (A. D. 1275).
3. A. D. 1540. The disadvantages of the long period of limitation was, however, to a great extent avoided by the system of levying fines. See Lightwood, Possession of Land. 15C.
4. A. D. 1623
- Theory of the legislation. The desirability of fixing, by law, a definite period within which claims to land must be asserted has been generally recognized, among the practical considerations in favor of such a policy being the prevention of the making of illegal claims after the evidence necessary to defeat them has been lost, and the interest which the community as a whole has in the security of title. The moral justification of the policy lies in the consideration that one who has reason to know that land belonging to him is in the possession of another, and neglects, for a considerable period of time, to assert his right thereto, may properly be penalized by his preclusion from thereafter asserting such right. It is, apparently, by reason of the demerit of the true owner, rather than any supposed merit in the person who has acquired wrongful possession of the land, that this possession, if continued for the statutory period, operates to debar the former owner of all right to recover the land.6
- Presumption of conveyance distinguished. The doctrine, occasionally asserted, that the long continued possession of land by one claiming as owner gives rise to the presumption of a valid conveyance to him or to the person under whom he claims, though ordinarily similar in its practical results to the statutes of limitation, is entirely independent thereof. It involves a presumption of the rightfulness of one's possession, while the statapplication of the limitation statutes to laud registered under the system, the limitation period to begin to run, however, only after registration.
6. See Ames, Disseisin of Chattels, 3 Harv. Law Rev. 318, Lectures on Legal History 197; Editorial note, 10 Columbia L. Rev. 761; Pollock & Wright, Possession, 96; Gibson, C. J., in Sailor v. Hertzogg, 2 Pa. St. 182;
Regard to the actual belief of the jury therein,10 it must be supported by a possession of at least the period of the statute of limitations, and ordinarily its application has been based on a possession for a longer period.11 When the presumption, so called, involves merely an inference of the making of a conveyance from the fact of possession, taken in connection with other circumstances, it seems that a period of possession less than the limitation period might properly be considered in aid of the inference.12
Utes of limitation are by their terms applicable only when the possession is, apart from such statutes, wrongful.
Haralson, J., in Lecro'x v. Malone, 157 Ala. 434, 47 So. 725; Depue, J., in Foulke v. Bond, 41 N. J. L. 527. A different view is indicated in Mclver v. Ragan, 2 Wheat, 25, approved in Craven v. Craven, 181 Ind. 553, 103 N. E. 333, 105 N. E. 41. See the discussion of the policy of the statutes by Professor Henry W. Ballantine, 32 Harv. Law Rev. 135.