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Woman’s claim for reformation of deed fails

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A Vanderburgh County woman who filed a lawsuit for reformation of a deed 46 years after receiving the warranty deed lost her appeal of a trial court ruling in favor of neighboring property owners.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the grant of partial summary judgment for Kent and Marjorie Powelson on Betty Angel’s claims for reformation of a deed and adverse possession. In 1964, Kent Powelson’s grandmother executed a warranty deed transferring 73 acres, “more or less,” to Angel and her husband. The Angels were also granted an easement for roadway purposes. The remaining 7 acres, “more or less,” were conveyed to Kent Powelson’s father in the 1970s, who later conveyed it to the Powelsons. The Powelsons also had an easement to the roadway.

After the Powelsons allowed a cell phone company to put a tower on their property, Angel sued the Powelsons in 2010, claiming, among other things, that the legal description of the property boundaries in her 1964 deed should be reformed because she was misinformed by Kent Powelson’s grandmother as to how much land she was receiving. Angel claimed that she only received 71.6 acres. She also claimed that she established ownership to the roadway through adverse possession.

Vanderburgh Superior Judge Robert Tornatta granted partial summary judgment on these two claims, finding the doctrine of laches bars Angel’s claim for reformation of the deed. Tornatta also found that the claim for adverse possession failed because her use of the roadway was not exclusive or hostile.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in Betty J. Angel v. Kent H. Powelson and Marjorie A. Powelson, 82A04-1205-PL-292, pointing to how long Angel waited to file her claim for reformation of the deed and that the deed was recorded and a matter of public record. Her failure to give heed to the “more or less” language in the deed does not defeat the application of laches, the judges held. In addition, the Powelsons were prejudiced by her delay in bringing the claim because witnesses such as Kent Powelson’s grandmother and father were deceased.

The judges also upheld the grant of summary judgment to the Powelsons on Angel’s claim of adverse possession of the roadway because she couldn’t show the elements of control and intent. Both Angel and the Powelsons were granted an easement to use the roadway and both used it for ingress and egress purposes.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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