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Man gets partial win on appeal, still must pay for damaging woman’s home

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The man who purchased 2.28 acres of land in a foreclosure sale must pay for the damage he caused by taking the law into his own hands in trying to evict a woman living in a mobile home on the property, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. But, the court reversed summary judgment in favor of the woman on adverse possession, prescriptive easement and trespass claims.

Jewell Reuter had a mobile home on a small portion of her family’s land for more than 20 years. She tended the land and installed a septic system and water lines to access a nearby well. But the land was never deeded to her. When Larry Flick purchased 2.28 acres of the family land in a foreclosure sale, nearly all of Reuter’s land, part of her septic system and the well she used were included in the portion of the land.

He tried to drive Reuter out by severing the water lines access her well, destroying her plants with a large rotary mower, and by erecting an electric fence around the home.

The trial court ruled in favor of Reuter on her adverse possession and prescriptive easement claims and awarded $29,487.70 in damages against Flick.

“Although we ultimately conclude that Reuter’s adverse-possession and prescriptive-easement claims fail, we affirm the trial court’s $29,487.70 judgment against Flick for damages he caused by attempting to eject Reuter without court authorization,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in Larry Edward Flick v. Jewell Reuter, 47A01-1303-PL-135. “Indiana Code section 32-30-2-1 provides that a person having a valid interest in real property and a right to the possession of that property may recover it and take possession by bringing an action against a person claiming the title or interest in the real property. Flick disregarded the statute and engaged in unconscionable self-help; he must pay for the damage he caused by taking the law into his own hands.”

In reversing the trial court, the COA found that Reuter did not prove her payment of required taxes in order to succeed on her adverse possession claim. She was only able to show, at best, that she paid taxes on her mobile home from 2006 to 2010. She was never able to show that she paid taxes on the land, which she said she had paid since 1988 and included the land and her home.

On her prescriptive easement claim, Reuter was unable to produce evidence that she had communicated with the previous owners for permission to live on the land. They let her live on the land because she was family, and the circumstances of her use before Flick’s arrival show that her use was permissive, Vaidik wrote.

The COA also denied her request for appellate attorney fees.

 

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