December 19, 2017

After holding a non-jury trial, the Supreme Court, Suffolk County (Hon. W. Gerard Asher) has upheld an owner’s title to beachfront lands in Schulz v. Gilmore, Index No 23198/2003.  The title claim at issue involved a private beach area in South Jamesport, NY, where the lands had grown over time through a process known as “accretion.”  The plaintiff, a neighboring owner, claimed title to all of the accreted lands as against the defendant, who was the direct upland owner.  After hearing the evidence at trial, the trial judge concluded that the defendant was the owner of the accreted lands based on longstanding principles of law.  The trial judge adopted a “straight-line” approach to demarcating the boundary line between the plaintiff and defendant, and thus the pre-existing boundary between the parties’ upland properties was continued in a straight line through the later-formed accreted lands, up to the high water line.  The trial court’s decision illustrates a modern application of ancient doctrines of title law applicable to waterfront properties.