ILNews

COA affirms order to enjoin

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment enjoining some members of a class action suit from pursuing a quiet title action, finding the agreements of a settlement disposed of all claims in property between the class and a company.

In Fern E. Firestone, et al. v. American Premier Underwriters Inc. and U.S. Railroad Vest, Corp., No. 06A01-0804-CV-199, the appellate court had to determine whether the trial court erred in ruling that claims brought by Wayne E. Boyd and Bunker Farms to the subject real estate don't fall within the category of title disputes excluded from the scope of declaratory judgment entered by a trial court in October 2004.

The issue arises out of a settlement agreement entered into by the railroad company and the plaintiff class, people who owned land next to or over land which Penn Central - now American Premier Underwriters - had a right-of-way for railroad use that is no longer utilized for that purpose.

The agreement stipulated when the plaintiff class' title to any portion of the settlement land adjacent to their property would be superior to the claims of title by APU and when APU's title to designated land would be superior to the class' claims.

The settlement said upon entry of the final order and judgment by the court, the class would be forever barred from initiating, claiming, or prosecuting any cause of action against APU or any released party that could have been brought in the suit. There was a stipulation in Paragraph 8 that said this declaratory judgment won't resolve title disputes between individual persons which may occur as a result of conveyances of portions of the settlement land.

Bunker Farms filed a complaint after the settlement to establish revision of title to real estate and to quiet title in the abandoned right-of-way in DeKalb County. The trial court granted APU's motions to enjoin Bunker Farms from bringing its action to quiet title.

Paragraph 8 doesn't give Bunker Farms the right to bring its action, wrote Senior Judge John Sharpnack. To allow Bunker Farms' separate suit against APU would "eviscerate the settlement agreement and the declaratory judgment," the judge wrote.

"Many, if not all, disputes over ownership between APU and class members would fall within Bunker Farms' interpretation," he wrote. "That would be an absurd result and cannot have been the intent of Paragraph 8. Rather, the paragraph speaks to parties, not including APU, who might dispute who has the ownership of the subject real estate."

As a result, the trial court was correct in its interpretation of Paragraph 8 and its order to enjoin Bunker Farms was not an error.
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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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