Court rules in favor of apartment developer in land dispute

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SUPERIOR Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja has granted the summary judgment motion filed by an apartment developer against the heirs of the estate of Antonio Muna Cabrera in a dispute over a Koblerville property.

The plaintiffs, Jose C. Ayuyu and Xiu Fang Huang, who are represented by attorneys Matthew Gregory and Robert Torres, wanted the court to issue an order declaring them the rightful owner of Tract No. 22776-1, a 10,000 sq. m. property in Koblerville.

The lawsuit named Sylvan Cabrera, Antonio S. Cabrera, Jose S. Cabrera, Ana S. Cabrera, Joaquin C. Cabrera, and Estella M. Cabrera as defendants.

Judge Naraja, in his order, found that the defendants have not met the 20-year statutorily prescribed time for establishing a claim for adverse possession.

The judge also found that a trespass on the property has occurred.

He said a hearing to determine the value of damages for trespass will be held on May 13, 2020 at 9 a.m.

Antonio S. Cabrera, Jose S. Cabrera, and Ana S. Cabrera are children of Antonio Muna Cabrera, and heirs to the Estate of Antonio Muna Cabrera. Estella Cabrera is the wife of Antonio S. Cabrera. Sylvan Cabrera is the son of Antonio S. Cabrera and Estella M. Cabrera. Joaquin C. Cabrera and Antonio S. Cabrera, Jose S. Cabrera, and Ana S. Cabrera are first cousins.

After several years of dispute and related litigation involving the CNMI government, the court in 1996 issued a partial distribution order confirming to Joaquin C. Cabrera tract no. 22776-1 in fee simple.

The assets of the estate listed were: (1) Tract No. 22776 containing an area of 25,073 sq. m., and (2) the remaining rights to 24,927 sq. m. of public land.

The probate court confirmed rights to 10,000 sq. m. of the undetermined 24,927 sq. m. of public land to Jeannette Sablan, while Joaquin Cabrera received one hectare (10,000 sq. m.) from Tract No. 22776 in fee simple.

The remaining three hectares (30,000 sq. m.) are for the heirs of the Estate of Antonio Muna Cabrera: Antonio S. Cabrera, Jose S. Cabrera, and Ana S. Cabrera.

Sylvan Cabrera, Antonio S. Cabrera, and Estella Cabrera live on the remaining northern portion of Tract No. 22776, adjacent to the parceled out Tract No. 22776-1.

Estella Cabrera testified that the defendants have lived on the remaining portion of Tract No. 22776 since 1972.

According to the lawsuit, on Dec. 26, 2009, Jose C. Ayuyu acquired the property through a warranty deed from Joaquin Cabrera, giving Ayuyu fee simple ownership to Tract No. 22776-1.

On Jan. 26, 2017, Ayuyu leased Tract No. 22776-1 to plaintiff Xiu Fang Huang for a term of 55 years, commencing on Jan. 25, 2017, and ending on Jan. 24, 2072. Xiu Fang Huang plans to build an apartment building on the property.

On April 9, 2018, Steven Dela Cruz and Gregorio Basa attempted to enter Tract No. 22776-1 to build a fence for Xiu Fang Huang.

Sylvan Cabrera blocked Dela Cruz’s access to the property with his vehicle and told the men that he would “cut whoever enters Tract No. 22776-1 with a machete because the land belongs to his family.” Sylvan Cabrera was holding a machete when he said this.

On June 15, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from trespassing upon Tract No. 22776-1, or interfering with the legal rights of lessee Xiu Fang Huang to Tract No. 22776-1.

The court granted the plaintiffs’ motion on August 1, 2018, preventing the defendants or any person acting through them from interfering with the plaintiffs’ use, enjoyment, and possession of the property.

In addition, the court allowed the plaintiffs, or anyone acting through them, to clear and erect a fence around the property.

But the court also said that its approval is required for any other development — i.e., beginning construction of the apartment building — on the property.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for a summary judgment following the court’s issuance of a preliminary injunction.

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