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Land Boundary II

Jan Van Sickle, P.L.S.

Course Outline

It is fair to say that the body of common law is more comprehensive than statute law, it covers more ground. Therefore it is probable that a practicing surveyor will find more frequent recourse to common law. Unfortunately common law is not as conveniently documented, as is statute law. Luckily it is comprised of the principles established from cases that have been submitted by parties to legal actions so one way to discover their element is to study those cases. It is often through them that principles currently in force have been built.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

This course is designed to offer a few key concepts of common law by presenting some of the cases that helped establish important principles. They have been chosen to illustrate how these ideas are played out in the real world and offer a few insights that might assist a land surveyor exercise his most important facility, his judgment.

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for land surveyors.

Benefit to Attendees

Attendee of this course will be able to interpret deed language in light of some well-established principles at common law.

Course Introduction

A surveyor's most important tool is judgment. When it comes to boundary determinations the exercise of that judgment is most often based on the monuments available, the measurements taken, the evidence of lines of possession, former surveys, testimony and more. However, the relative weight given these elements frequently rests on the surveyor's understanding of two aspects of land boundary law, statute law and common law.

Statute law is usually more straightforward than common law. These laws, created by legislatures are documented as such in the public record. Common law, on the other hand, generally rests on the determination of what is right and wrong as established by the courts. It is important to note that statute law does not somehow repeal common law. However, if there is a contradiction between statute law and common law, the common law is inactive as long as the statute law exists.

These two cases; Sellman v. Schaaf and Davis v. Andrews, are significant in that they reveal several of the ideas at the foundation of common law as it relates to land boundaries. By studying them you can see how the concepts are built and sustained by the courts and how they may actually be applied in the field.

Course Content

You need to download and study the following course content:

Land Boundary Surveys II

Course Summary

Much, certainly not all, of the common law in the United States is descended from English common law. It does not always harmonize with current ideas of justice. Neither does common law always square with logic or even common sense. Even though some principles of common law were developed to fulfill long past needs, some of them still stand at the foundation of our work today. They have stood the test of time.

Knowledge of common law is essential to the practice of land surveying. I trust that this course has provided one small step on that road.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.