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. File under the Sociology of Hoosier Discipline ... “We will be answering the complaint in due course and defending against the commission’s allegations,” said Indianapolis attorney Don Lundberg, who’s representing Hudson in her disciplinary case. FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW ... Lundberg ran the statist attorney disciplinary machinery in Indy for decades, and is now the "go to guy" for those who can afford him .... the ultimate insider for the well-to-do and/or connected who find themselves in the crosshairs. It would appear that this former prosecutor knows how the game is played in Circle City ... and is sacrificing accordingly. See more on that here ... http://www.theindianalawyer.com/supreme-court-reprimands-attorney-for-falsifying-hours-worked/PARAMS/article/43757 Legal sociologists could have a field day here ... I wonder why such things are never studied? Is a sacrifice to the well connected former regulators a de facto bribe? Such questions, if probed, could bring about a more just world, a more equal playing field, less Stalinist governance. All of the things that our preambles tell us to value could be advanced if only sunshine reached into such dark worlds. As a great jurist once wrote: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." Other People's Money—and How Bankers Use It (1914). Ah, but I am certifiable, according to the Indiana authorities, according to the ISC it can be read, for believing such trite things and for advancing such unwanted thoughts. As a great albeit fictional and broken resistance leaders once wrote: "I am the dead." Winston Smith Let us all be dead to the idea of maintaining a patently unjust legal order.

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