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Using quiet titles to resolve boundary disputes

When people in Pennsylvania saw the CNBC headline about Facebook's CEO suing hundreds of Hawaiians to force them off their property, it turned heads. However, a deeper look at the article, which included an amendment with the founder's statements on the matter, may tell a different story.

A few years ago, Facebook's CEO bought 700 acres of land in Hawaii for $100 million. The CEO has raised eyebrows in the past for taking extreme lengths to secure privacy at home for himself and his family. He took similar measures in Hawaii by filing eight quiet title suits in a Kauai court. These forced the courts to find out who the land actually belonged to. Some of the owners are long deceased, but others or their descendants are still alive.

The CNBC article seemed to imply that the CEO’s intentions were malicious or at least purely for his own self-interest. It pointed to the fact that the plots of land will now go up for forced auction to the highest bidder. However, the CEO insists that by finding out who the owners are and selling the land, people who did not even know they had shares in the property may get the money they are owed.

One of the land owners affected by the suit also spoke in support of the CEO’s side of the story. In fact, he is helping the CEO as a co-plaintiff. He wants to ensure the land does not get surrendered to the county if the owners cannot be found. He said he believed that selling to the CEO would ensure everyone received a fair market value for their property. For the CEO, it means that he achieves greater privacy. This is because some of the plots of land are part of or intersect with his own, which would otherwise allow land owners to travel across his property.

According to FindLaw, quiet title lawsuits are one way that property owners may resolve boundary disputes. However, it is often more expensive than other available methods of resolving such problems. In the case of this CEO, however, cost is unlikely to be a prohibiting factor, especially where his privacy is concerned.

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