JAMES M. WINTERS, CAROL A. WINTERS, TED WAITMAN, and DEBORAH WAITMAN, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
A.J. CHRISTEN and AUNE CHRISTEN, and their heirs, devisees, grantees, assignments, successors in interest and any unknown claimants of the followed described real estate situated in Allamakee County, Defendants, and DUANE A. TANK and SHEILA M. TANK, Intervenors-Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County, John J.
Tank and Sheila Tank appeal the district court's grant of
summary judgment to James Winters, Carol Winters, Ted
Waitman, and Deborah Waitman in this quiet title action.
AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.
L. Sutton of Sutton Law Office, Charles City, for appellants.
Burns of Miller, Pearson, Gloe, Burns, Beatty & Parrish,
P.L.C., Decorah, for appellees.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
Winters, Carol Winters, Ted Waitman, and Deborah Waitman
instituted this quiet title action, seeking to establish
their ownership over the land situated between their
properties and that of the high water mark of the Mississippi
River. Duane Tank and Sheila Tank filed an answer to the
Winterses and Waitmans' petition, contesting their
asserted ownership. The Winterses filed a motion for partial
summary judgment to which the Tanks objected. The court
granted the motion for partial summary judgment and quieted
title in the Winterses and the Waitmans. The Tanks have
appealed. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.
Background Facts and Proceedings
Winterses' property lies westerly of the Mississippi
River. The Waitmans' property is situated south of the
Winterses' property. The Tanks' property is north of
the Winterses' and Waitmans' properties, although it
does not abut their properties, as other privately-owned land
rests between them. To the east of all of these properties is
the Mississippi River. However, between the west bank of the
Mississippi River and the east boundary of these properties
runs a strip of land. Thus, none of these properties directly
abut the Mississippi River. Included on this strip of land
are railroad tracks on the east side of the strip (closest to
the river) and, to the west of the railroad tracks, a public
road. The strip of land between the Tanks' property and
the Mississippi River is owned by the United States
Government. It is the strip of land between the
Winterses' and Waitmans' properties and the
Mississippi River that is at issue in this case.
Tanks and Winterses have previously litigated a related
dispute over the property at issue. In 2011, the Tanks filed
a petition for temporary and permanent injunctions and
seeking monetary damages based on the Winterses' alleged
interference with the Tanks' ability to use a dock they
had constructed on the river shoreline to the east of the
Winterses' property. At that time, the Winterses-who had
also installed a dock on the shore-claimed ownership of the
same shoreline and all the real estate between their property
and the Mississippi River. The Winterses also claimed they
had acquired the disputed strip of land by adverse
possession. Accordingly, the Winterses sought a permanent
injunction against the Tanks and an order requiring them to
remove their dock.
of the land at issue was recorded in 1892. Referencing the
abstract of title to the Winterses' real estate, the
district court noted in the 2011 action, "It is not
clear from the  plat where [the width of the lot]
commences. It could commence at some point in the river, on
the railroad track or on the possible roadway." In 1949,
property was conveyed to A.J. and Aune Christen. The district
court recounted that in this conveyance the property transfer
"except[ed] that portion of Government Lot 4 lying
Easterly of the Northeasterly right of way line of the
railroad." That is, in part of the property conveyed,
the land to the east of the railroad was not
district court further summarized that, in 1970, the
Christens had a surveyor plat their land; the plat was
recorded in October of that same year. The plat divided the
land into lots, and the easternmost edge of those lots was
the county road. Thus, "[t]he land containing the
roadway and railroad tracks, which runs east from the lots to
the Mississippi River, [wa]s not divided into lots."
Certain lots were then conveyed to Donald and Patricia Clark
in 1972; the deed specifically provided: "Sellers will
not warranty any title East of County Road . . . ." The
same property was then deeded to Billy and Judith Crandall.
The deed provided the "intention [was] to convey from
[the] County Road on [the] East side, to [the] West line of
said Lot." The Winterses owned the property after the
Crandalls. All of these conveyances passed "[s]ubject to
public highway and rights of the Railroad and U.S. Government
resolving the parties' dispute, the district court found:
(1) the strip of land in dispute-that is "[t]he real
estate lying east of the eastern lot lines, which encompasses
the roadway, railroad tracks, as well as the land to the
Mississippi River"-was still owned by the Christens'
heirs as it "was not included in any lots and,
accordingly, was not conveyed"; (2) the Winterses had
not brought an action to quiet title, and regardless, the
Christens' heirs were necessary parties for the land to
be quieted; and (3) neither party had a possessory interest
in the shoreline. Accordingly, both parties' claims were
2013, the Winterses and Waitmans brought a petition in equity
to quiet title. They named as defendants the Christens'
heirs and claimed they had adversely possessed the disputed
land. Though not named in the action, the Tanks filed an
answer, claiming the suit had been previously adjudicated,
the Winterses and Waitmans had failed to join the State of
Iowa and United States as parties to the action, and the
Tanks had also used the property at issue. In October 2015,
the Winterses filed a motion for partial summary judgment,
alleging there was no genuine issue of material fact that (1)
they had adversely possessed the property, (2) the
Christens' heir-Sheila Daniels-had deeded the disputed
property to them, and (3) the Tanks were legal strangers to
the same property. In their resistance to the motion, the
Tanks argued, in relevant part, the Winterses failed to
establish the ownership of the land between the railroad
tracks and the high water mark of the Mississippi River,
there was no evidence Sheila Daniels owned the property at
issue, and the Tanks had rights to the ...