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Neighbors entitled to 12-foot strip of land under doctrine by acquiescence

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In a dispute between longtime neighbors over use and ownership of a strip of land, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for one set of neighbors based on the doctrine of title by acquiescence.

In Clifford and Judith Ann Garrett v. Paul and Linda Spear, 23A01-1303-PL-96, Paul and Linda Spear filed a complaint against their neighbors, Clifford and Judith Ann Garrett, after the couple built a cattle fence along a surveyed boundary which runs to the south end of the Spears’ garage. The garage was built in 1996 on land they believed to be their property, but the 2010 survey showed it belonged to the Garretts. The Spears believed it to be their property based on discussions and actions of the previous homeowners, Georgia and Don Gillis. The Gillises erected a fence along what they believed to be the property line, which is what the Spears used when building their garage. The Garretts tore down that fence, but never looked into where the proper line was until the 2010 survey.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Spears, finding the ruling controlled by the doctrine of acquiescence. The court ordered the Spears to obtain and properly record a survey reflecting the boundary line that has been in existence since 1983 along the fence line by agreement between the Gillises’ and the Spears’ property. The Garretts were ordered to remove the fence installed along the boundary.

“As the Indiana Supreme Court held in Adams (v. Betz), ‘where owners of adjoining premises establish by agreement a boundary . . . and improve the same in accordance with such division, each party, in the absence of fraud, will thereafter be estopped from asserting that the line so agreed upon and established is not the true boundary line . . . ,’” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “We find, based upon the designated evidence, that this is precisely what took place. Accordingly, we conclude that the court did not err in granting summary judgment to the Spears based upon the doctrine of title by acquiescence.”
 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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