ILNews

Court decides 2 disputed land cases

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on two cases today involving disputed tracts of land on lakefront properties and adverse possession in Kosciusko County.

In Daisy Farm Limited Partnership v. Michael and Jill Morrolf, No. 43A04-0707-CV-390, the appellate court reversed the trial court judgment in favor of Michael and Jill Morrolf that a disputed tract of land didn't pass to Daisy Farm by virtue of adverse possession. Daisy Farm and its predecessors owned the lot adjoining the Morrolfs' in a neighborhood located on Lake Tippecanoe. Both maintain piers extending from their property into the lake. At issue in the case is whether Daisy Farm had acquired a portion of the Morrolfs' lot by adverse possession. Daisy Farm claims the Morrolfs' pier mars Daisy Farm's view of the lake and use of its own pier.

The trial court determined the riparian boundaries of the lots using a straight extension method of continuing the properly lines straight into the lake. The Court of Appeals affirmed this method.

The trial court also determined that Daisy Farm and the previous owners of its lot did not acquire by adverse possession a narrow, triangular area located in the platted lines of the Morrolfs' lot that begins between the cottages and runs north to the lake. It found Daisy Farm failed to show exclusivity of the disputed tract of land because other people, including the general public, exercised an easement across the north portion of the Morrolfs' lot. The court also determined as a matter of law Daisy Farm can't prevail on its adverse possession claim because the owners of the lot never paid taxes on the disputed section.

But the trial court erred in determining as a matter of law Daisy Farm and its predecessors were prohibited from acquiring a portion of the Morrolfs' lot on the basis they, along with other homeowners and the general public, had the right to use the northern portion of the lot as a thoroughfare, wrote Senior Judge George Hoffman. Also, the court erred in not considering whether Daisy Farm and its predecessors complied with Indiana Code 32-21-7-1 regulating adverse possession and the adverse possessor paying all taxes he or she believes in good faith to be due on the land during the period which the adverse possessor claims to have possessed the land.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings with instructions.

In Michael A. and Darlene S. Hoose v. William H. and Judith A. Doody, No. 43A03-0708-CV-420, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's findings that Michael and Darlene Hoose didn't prove they possessed record title or adverse possession to the land in question.

Michael Hoose acquired the title from his parents to Lot 8 located in the original plat of Osburn's subdivision of Big Chapman Lake. The Doodys held the title to Lot 9, which is immediately adjacent to the eastern border of Lot 8. North of these two lots is an area that abuts the lake's shoreline that is used as a park by the subdivision's residents. However, the Hooses and Doodys disagree about whether the area directly north of the Hooses' lot has been designated as a dedicated park, as is the case with the area directly north of Lot 9.

The Hooses maintained a pier in the disputed area; when the Doodys installed a pier that encroached on the disputed area, the Hooses filed a verified complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Doodys. The Hooses alleged the original warranty deed conveyed to Hooses' parents the exclusive use of the disputed area to the Hooses. The warranty deed conveyed to Hooses' parents the proprietorship of the land between the lot and the lake and agreed no buildings or occupancy would be allowed there. The deed also stated if the strip of land was ever vacated, the owners of Lot 8 would have priority of purchase.

The Doodys' filed a counterclaim against the Hooses, claiming the disputed area was a park to which every owner in the subdivision had the right to use. The trial court ruled the Hooses didn't prove any official record of ownership of the disputed land, didn't carry their burden of proof under any claim for adverse possession, and didn't satisfy the statutory requirement of paying taxes on the land.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling, finding the plain language of the warranty deed and extrinsic evidence supports that the signatories of the plat intended for the disputed area to be a park, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

The Hooses argued on appeal that they didn't fail to comply with Section 32-231-7-1 by not paying taxes on the disputed land because the auditor didn't include the land on the tax rolls. This section requires claimants pay all the taxes that he or she reasonably believes in good faith to be due on the land. Because the Hooses owned Lot 8 and paid taxes on it, they couldn't have reasonably believed they in good faith owned Lot 7 and didn't have to pay taxes on it, wrote Judge Crone.

Judge L. Mark Bailey dissented, believing the language of the original warranty deed conveyed the disputed area to Michael's parents in fee simple. He wrote that the deed unambiguously conveyed Lot 8, the disputed area with a restrictive covenant, and provides the first right of refusal to purchase the land.
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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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