EDWARD SOCHA, JR. v. SCOTT BORDEAU, SC 18040
Judicial District of New London at Norwich
Property; Whether a Boundary Line Agreement Established Plaintiff's Ownership of Subaqueous Land Adjacent to the Defendant's Property; Whether the Evidence was Sufficient to Establish the Plaintiff's Ownership of the Disputed Land. Edward Socha, Jr., and Scott Bordeau own abutting properties on the shores of Gardner Lake in Salem. After a dispute arose between them as to the location of the boundary line, the matter was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled, in part, that the boundary line "shall follow the shoreline" of Bordeau's property. The parties entered into an agreement consistent with the arbitrator's decision, and the agreement was submitted to the court as a stipulated judgment. Subsequently, Socha brought this action, alleging that he was the owner of certain subaqueous land adjacent to Bordeau's property and that Bordeau, by building docks on that land, was trespassing. Although Bordeau did not claim that he owned the subaqueous land at issue, he maintained that Socha could not establish ownership of that land either. Socha claimed that his ownership of the subaqueous land was established by the stipulated judgment. The trial court found that, while the stipulated judgment established the frontage of Bordeau's property on Gardner Lake, it was irrelevant to the issue of whether Socha owned the subaqueous land. The court observed that the description of the property in Socha's deed was incomplete, and that the "missing course," depending on where it is reconstructed or located, could put Bordeau's dock either on or off of Socha's property. For purposes of establishing the missing course, Socha's expert surveyor, Michael Tarbell, prepared a map, in which he suggested two possible locations that might have been intended to "close" the description. The court, however, refused to consider Tarbell's map, noting that Tarbell's scenarios assumed various factors that were by no means certain, such as the direction of an underwater ditch and the height of the water in the lake over the years. The court, therefore, concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish the missing course in Socha's deed. It further determined that Socha failed to establish the location of Bordeau's dock, either as it related to the scenarios put forth by Tarbell or otherwise. Accordingly, noting that Socha could not recover on his trespass claim based upon the weakness of Bordeau's title, the court rendered judgment in favor of Bordeau, ruling that there was no credible evidence that Socha owned the subaqueous land upon which Bordeau had built his dock. On appeal, Socha claims, inter alia, that because Bordeau, in the boundary line agreement, acknowledges Socha's ownership of the disputed subaqueous land or, alternatively, turned over all rights to Socha that he held to use the subaqueous land, Socha was entitled to judgment based on the boundary line agreement. Socha also claims that the evidence was sufficient to establish his ownership of the disputed subaqueous land.