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Judges rule on lakefront land rights case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a LaGrange Circuit judge’s decision granting summary judgment for a group of land owners caught up in a court dispute with neighbors about a portion of land situated between the plaintiffs’ homes and the shore of Big Long Lake.

In Brad A. Altevogt, et al. v. Dennis L. Brand, et al., No. 44A03-1106-MI-237, the COA affirmed a decision by LaGrange Circuit Judge Scott VanDerbeck in the land rights dispute between neighbors.

The plaintiffs in this case are front-lot owners in a subdivision platted in the 1930s in LaGrange County. Plaintiffs’ lots are situated near the lake with only the Indian Trail separating them from the lakeshore. The defendants are all back-lot owners who claim that their access to the lake would be impaired if the plaintiffs prevail in their claim of adverse possession of those portions of land in front of their lots.

In November 2008, the front-lot owners filed a complaint against the back-lot owners seeking to quiet title to those portions of the Indian Trail between the front lots and Big Long Lake. The trial court held a hearing on summary judgment motions from both sides in April 2011 and entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

The Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments that the Indian Trail was dedicated as a public easement adjacent to the lake and that their fee ownership should extend to the lakeshore. The trial court didn’t address this argument because it wasn’t raised in the pleadings, and the appellate panel found that this means the argument fails.

The plaintiffs also argued there’s insufficient evidence of the original plat-owner’s intent to establish common-law dedication but that there is enough proof to establish a stator dedication. The appellate court disagreed. Specifically, the judges found that the trail was only for the use of lot owners and guests; not the public.

Finding that the trial court properly concluded the plaintiffs hadn’t established the elements of adverse possession, the appeals judges affirmed the lower court. They also pointed out that they do not read the trial court’s order to say that all lot owners are co-tenants of the Indian Trail.


 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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