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  1. #1
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    Dec 2014
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    Default Can You Sue Your Neighbor's Surveyor Over an Error in a Survey

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Pennsylvania

    Back in 1991, my neighbor had a survey done. The surveyor moved my neighbor’s pin 27 feet unto my property (this was before I purchased it). The surveyor ignored existing corner pins and based his move on old deed distances and angles. I know case law supports holding existing pins rather than deed angles. This survey conflicted with 5 other surveys done in the area. Plus I could potentially claim it was a fraudulent survey for these reasons: 1. I have a copy of their worksheet where they found two existing corner pins but on their final survey drawing they did not draw the pins they found because it would not support them moving the line and 2. They admitted to me over the phone that they never notified the owner of my property at the time that they moved the pin. 3. Neighbor has advantage in more land and neighbor is paying surveyor, so surveyor could have financial advantage in taking land for neighbor.

    I have in writing where my neighbor’s surveyor said “we also have a duty to set the boundary to the best of our ability, to comply with the immediate adjoiners boundary”….but he did not comply with my boundary.

    I had to spend $2700 to get a new survey to confirm this error. My neighbor concurred with my survey and we signed a boundary line agreement to get it resolved. However, I am out $2700 and the original survey company is not being cooperative to reimburse me. Their defense is:
    1. I have no legal standing because the surveyor did not do work for me.
    2. They point to the statute of repose (42 Pa.C.S.A Section 5537) which has a 12 year limitation for surveyor liability.
    3. If I challenge in court, their attorney threatened to hold me accountable for legal fees due to “Misuse of Process”

    I just have a few questions:
    1. Do I have legal standing and if so, what is the basis for my standing?
    2. Can I make the case that my neighbor’s surveyor has a legal obligation to me because I am an adjoining property owner that was damaged by their actions?
    3. Is there a way around the 12 year statute of repose?
    a. From my understanding 42 Pa.C.S.A Section 5504b states that the stature of repose does not protect in cases of fraud. Do I have a potential fraud case based on what I wrote above?
    b. 42 Pa.C.S.A Section 5537 says it protects against “any person” and doesn’t say company. Can I make the case that this provision only protects the individual and not the company?
    c. I have documented emails from this surveyor where he says that I need to get a survey before he’ll talk to me more about the issue. I got the survey and it proved he was wrong….is that a way around this 12 year statute of repose because I based getting a survey on this recent suggestion?
    4. Is what they said about holding me accountable for legal fees due to misuse of process true?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    a statute of repose is a statute of repose; it sets a time limit regardless of whether the issue was known or acted upon. While a statute of limitations often has circumstances that toll the running of the clock, a statute of repose is simply a clock that runs from the time of the injury without pause.

    and error, or even incompetence, does not come close to fraud. What do you believe was fraudulent in the surveyors actions?

    4. Is what they said about holding me accountable for legal fees due to misuse of process true?
    they can surely ask for them. You already know the time of repose has run. You have no reason to believe there was actual fraud (and it was not perpetrated against you even if there was fraud) and you still do not have proof your survey is more correct than his survey.
    I have in writing where my neighbor’s surveyor said “we also have a duty to set the boundary to the best of our ability, to comply with the immediate adjoiners boundary”….but he did not comply with my boundary.
    you are misunderstanding that requirement. It is not that they must blindly accept a claimed neighboring line but must work to make the parcels fit giving due respect to the neighbors lot line. Surveying has as much artistry in it as science at times. Given the imperfections of prior surveys, surveyors are charged with making the best of the situation when they discover an error and do their best to correct the error.

  3. #3
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    Dec 2014
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    their worksheet showed that they found the true corner pins, but they ignored them and reset the corner in their final survey drawing and they did not plot the pins that they found, plus they didn't inform the owner of my land at the time that they moved a pin....so it was more than just an error, they purposely moved a pin and didn't follow survey protocol as case law indicates

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    Quote Quoting Dino1837
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    their worksheet showed that they found the true corner pins, but they ignored them and reset the corner in their final survey drawing and they did not plot the pins that they found, plus they didn't inform the owner of my land at the time that they moved a pin....so it was more than just an error, they purposely moved a pin and didn't follow survey protocol as case law indicates
    it shows they found some existing corner pins that they believed to be in error.

    how do you know they did not inform the owner of your property?

    as to your statement about protocol; protocol is not law. protocol is a best practices issue. Unless the case law has created a de facto law they surveyor must announce the change to the neighboring land, it is basically a recommendation and not a requirement.

    our legal system typically does not provide a means to recover expenses to correct a mistake such as this. It is the cost of defending one's rights.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    I think you may have asked about this awhile back on another site. If so, the answer is still the same as before. The surveyor didn’t work for you. You didn’t hire him. He owed no obligations to you at all. Thus, there is nothing for you to pursue against the surveyor here even if the statute of repose didn’t block your claim. Your facts do not indicate fraud and, moreover, even if there was fraud it was not fraud committed by the surveyor against you. The surveyor had nothing to do with you.

    You had to pay for a survey to contest what the neighbor claimed. That’s what happens in property line disputes. There isn’t any provision that gives either property owner the right to recover those survey costs from the neighbor. This is simply one of those costs that you sometimes have to deal with when you own property. You obviously don’t like that, but if you were the one who posted about this earlier on another site I think you’ve spent far more time focusing on this than it merits already.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    Thanks for the advice.
    I strongly believe the surveyor's logic would not stand in court. Their survey is in conflict with 5 other surveyor's work. Even my neighbor and their attorney concurred with my survey.
    My neighbor's surveyed admitted to me that they never notified the owner of my property at the time that they moved a pin and took land from them.
    I am seeing from your advice that I will have a difficult time recouping my costs...

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    Quote Quoting Dino1837
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    Thanks for the advice.
    I strongly believe the surveyor's logic would not stand in court. Their survey is in conflict with 5 other surveyor's work. Even my neighbor and their attorney concurred with my survey.
    My neighbor's surveyed admitted to me that they never notified the owner of my property at the time that they moved a pin and took land from them.
    I am seeing from your advice that I will have a difficult time recouping my costs...
    so his logic won't stand up in court; so what? you have not lost any land so you are not damaged. On top of that, as taxing matters states, you have no viable cause of action against the surveyor anyway.
    It's time to move on.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    When you purchased property in PA the common law doctrine assumes that you have had the opportunity to inspect it and also the title and that at closing, and when you accepted the deed, whether you actually inspected or not, you accepted the property and the title. For your $2700 you got an addition to your land probably well worth more than that, and an increase beyond what you thought you had purchased.

    I strongly believe the surveyor's logic would not stand in court.
    Possibly very true. But after the passage of twelve years your case will be dismissed as unenforceable. If it is your goal to win in court at this point, at any cost, budget five times that to get an uneven chance at a win.

    Let me work through each question:

    1. Do I have legal standing and if so, what is the basis for my standing?

    No. You were a distant future non-participating third party when the survey was performed. There is no liability to such third parties.

    2. Can I make the case that my neighbor’s surveyor has a legal obligation to me because I am an adjoining property owner that was damaged by their actions?

    Unlikely unless third parties to the contract for survey were made parties to the survey, accepted at the time by both adjoiners. Unlikely in the extreme.

    3. Is there a way around the 12 year statute of repose?

    There are reasons for periods of repose and statutes of limitations. You are about to bring up fraud as an exception but a blunder by a surveyor is not fraud: it is a mistake actionable within the twelve year period by those who were parties to the original action. You are not a party and not within the twelve year window.

    4. Is what they said about holding me accountable for legal fees due to misuse of process true?

    Only your own attorney can answer that. Bringing an action after the statutory period has expired and as a plaintiff not with standing might be seen by a court as problematic.

    Hope this hits all the points.
    Resistance is not futile; it is voltage divided by current.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    Thank you all for your words of wisdom.

    - - - Updated - - -

    42 Pa.C.S.A Section 5537 (the survey statute of repose law) says it protects against “any person” and doesn’t say company. I assume that the intent of this law (and interpretation by judges) would be that it protects companies as well as individual survey persons. Do you know if that is true? The strict reading of the law would imply that protection is only granted to "persons" and not companies, but I assume judges will interpret that to guarantee protection to companies as well. Does anyone know for sure?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can I Hold Neighbor's Surveyor Accountable for Bad Survey Which Took Land from Me

    Quote Quoting Dino1837
    View Post
    42 Pa.C.S.A Section 5537 (the survey statute of repose law) says it protects against “any person” and doesn’t say company. I assume that the intent of this law (and interpretation by judges) would be that it protects companies as well as individual survey persons. Do you know if that is true? The strict reading of the law would imply that protection is only granted to "persons" and not companies, but I assume judges will interpret that to guarantee protection to companies as well. Does anyone know for sure?
    For most purposes the law regards entities like corporations, LLCs, trusts, estates, etc., as “persons” (known as “artificial persons”) and thus they get the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities under the law that humans (known as “natural persons”) do. Statutes of limitation and repose protect artificial persons just the same as they do natural persons. The word “person” applies to both. You won’t get around the statute of repose arguing that the company is not entitled to the benefit of it.

    I understand this sticks in your craw, but really, it’s much too late to sue over this even if you had a good claim to bring (and I don’t see a good claim here). I think it’s time you accept that and let it go. For the amount of money involved, you've already spent far more time on this than it is worth.

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